In our food chain, honeybees are tasked with a vital function: pollination.
In North America alone, honeybees’ role in pollination enables the production of at least 90 commercially grown crops, including apples, blueberries, melons and broccoli.
One student wanted more people to understand the significance of bees to human life — so she created what’s essentially a “bee drone” to be a functional teaching tool that couples technology and design.
Plan Bee is a personal robotic bee (controlled by a smart device) designed to mimic how bees pollinate flowers and crops. Similar to how bees transfer pollen from one flower to another, the drone sucks in pollen from a plant and expels it onto other flowers to enable cross-pollination.
Industrial design major Anna Haldewang first developed the idea for Plan Bee in a product design class, after a professor challenged her to create a self-sustainable object that stimulates the growth of plants.
“You need sun, water, soil and cross-pollination for that to happen,” said Haldewang, 24, a senior at Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia.
Pollination made her think about bees, and in researching, Haldewang was struck by honeybees’ struggles: “I had no idea about the danger to honeybee colonies and that bees were disappearing,” she said. It prompted her to create an educational product that both addressed her class assignment and would help to spread awareness about a bee’s role in the food system.
Her plan for the device, at first, is for it to be an educational tool. “I would love to see people use it in their backyards and even create custom gardens with it,” she said. “With an actual bee, its so small you don’t notice it and how it’s pollinating flowers. With the drone you can see how the process works.
But is it viable? Its application in backyards as a teaching tool has potential, said Ermoli. And the drone could serve an even bigger purpose. “It could conceivably be used in large-scale farming, even in hydroponic farming.”