Image credit – Mark Stone/University of Washington

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Drones are useful as tools for surveillance due to their ability to be piloted remotely. However the only downside to drone technology, at least right now in the state that it’s in, is battery life. For the most part drones can’t fly for too long before needing a recharge, which can be a bit disruptive during the course of work.

However researchers think that they might have found a better solution: bees. Engineers over at the University of Washington have created a set of sensors that is small enough to be placed on the backs of bees. The bees can then fly around crops which will help gather information about crop health, temperature, and humidity which might be important for farmers who are looking to optimize their crop growth.

These sensors are said to last for about 7 hours and will recharge when the bees fly back to their hives at night. According to senior author Shyam Gollakota, an associate professor in the UW’s Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering, “Drones can fly for maybe 10 or 20 minutes before they need to charge again, whereas our bees can collect data for hours. We showed for the first time that it’s possible to actually do all this computation and sensing using insects in lieu of drones.”

The only downside to this solution is that you can’t really control where bees go, unlike drones. There is also the issue of the size of the sensor which means that in terms of data storage, only 30 kilobytes of data can be stored which does limit the amount of data that can be collected at once.

However Gollakota believes that using bees is more advantageous. “Having insects carry these sensor systems could be beneficial for farms because bees can sense things that electronic objects, like drones, cannot. With a drone, you’re just flying around randomly, while a bee is going to be drawn to specific things, like the plants it prefers to pollinate. And on top of learning about the environment, you can also learn a lot about how the bees behave.”

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