Honey bee populations have been diminishing at alarming rates in recent years. Many environmentalists and scientists have brought awareness to the bees' significant role in the ecosystem.
With such problems as Colony Collapse Disorder (attributed to cellular phone towers disrupting communication frequencies of the bees, and to genetically modified foods), pesticide poisoning, 'super mites,' and other undetermined causes, many researchers are attempting to find ways to stem the unsettling tide of declining bee pollination.
One team, comprised of scientists from Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences as well as Northeastern University's Department of Biology, has arrived at a possible solution through biomimicry technology: the Robobees. Scientific American magazine's coverage of the micro air vehicles' innovation has the team leaders sharing: "[Back i]n 2009 [we] began to seriously consider what it would take to create a robotic bee colony. We wondered if mechanical bees could replicate not just an individual’s behavior but the unique behavior that emerges out of interactions among thousands of bees. We have now created the first RoboBees—flying bee-size robots—and are working on methods to make thousands of them cooperate like a real hive."
The program utilizes microrobotics know-how, and according to their Harvard website, the Robobees can eventually be programmed for coordinated activities such as pollinating fields of crops. The work has been a long time coming: some of the initial milestones included (1) making the wings flap, (2) having the Robobee take off, and (3) having steering control with yaw, pitch, roll, and hover.
The Robobee project's practical applications can be found to extend into areas like traffic monitoring, military surveillance, intelligence gathering, climate mapping, search and rescue, as well as hazardous environment exploration.