Japanese scientists create drone to help with pollination

Scientists at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology are using the mechanics of cross-pollination with bees to create a drone that can pick up pollen in one flower and bring it to another.

The drone, which is controlled manually, is 4 centimeters wide and weighs about 15 grams. The bottom of the drone is covered with a sticky-gel-coated horsehair that picks up pollen from one flower and rubs them off on another flower. The research team has been able to successfully cross-pollinate Japanese lilies with the drone.

Pollen is produced by male flower parts. When bees visit the flower, they carry the pollen in sacs along their legs and drop some of it into the pistils, or the female flower parts, so the plant can make seeds. Some plants, such as blueberries and almonds, need pollen from a different plant. Experts are concerned that the dwindling population of wild bees will result in fewer crops.

The team is working on developing independent drones that could help farmers pollinate their crops. However, although the idea of using drones to pollinate flowers is an inventive one, experts at other universities are skeptical that it will be economically feasible.

Read the full article at New Scientist.

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