Let’s face it: the bees are in trouble. Their populous is currently suffering from colony collapse disorder – a strange occurrence where worker bees from hives or colonies suddenly disappear. This decline in numbers is due to certain pesticides, parasites and viruses that have cropped up in the last decade, and even though the European Union has passed legislation to ban some of the pesticides, it may not be enough. However, all hope is not lost. After all, we live in the age where technology is advancing rapidly.
This is where the ‘Green Brain Project’ comes in: a collaboration of researchers from the Universities of Sussex and Sheffield that have come up with a solution called RoboBee. With over 1.6 million dollars in funding from Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), and a large donation of GPU accelerators from NVIDIA corporation, they have been able to create a small, flying robot that is just bigger than a quarter, and mimics the behaviors and movements of a bee.
The idea is to program algorithms similar to that of a bee’s brain, specifically with the senses of sight and smell, so that the RoboBees can act autonomously without pre-programmed commands. They would be able to pick up on odors and gases that would allow them to seek flowers just like bees, and could take the place of the dwindling population. This would hopefully balance out the effects of the bee endangerment, and allow for crops to be cross-pollinated on a mass scale. Perhaps most importantly, however, are the potential future developments that this technology could have for [easyazon-link asin=”1936749750″ locale=”us”]robotic science[/easyazon-link]. Using the GPU accelerators is allowing the Green Brain team to understand, dissect, and map the cognition of non-vertebrate brains in a way that has never been explored before. If the correct artificial algorithms could be successfully replicated, they would be reproduced on a larger scale, and thus provide an entirely new type of flying robot.
Currently, the RoboBee is able to take off autonomously, but the flight time is cut short due to the small wire that tethers it to the control system and flight sensors. However, the technology for these new mechanized insects is evolving quickly, and Green Brain predicts that entire swarms should be available in the next decade.
It is absolutely astounding that we have come so far as to be able to map a bee’s brain. I theorize that this will not only provide us with incredible innovations in flight, search and rescue, and agriculture; I like to think that in the perhaps not so distant future of [easyazon-link asin=”0988616114″ locale=”us”]transhuman[/easyazon-link] technologies, it could be applied to modes of transportation that are only dreamt of now in science fiction books. After all, who wouldn’t want to fly?