Could robobugs work fruit farms in the near future?

Fruit and vegetable growers in North America could face lower yields this year due to the mysterious disappearance of pollinating bees.  The so-called colony collapse disorder could get even worse next season.

Although finding more bees is the simple answer, the real solution just may lie in a lab at the University of California, Berkeley.  New Scientist reports that engineer Ronald Fearing is using the flight model of a bee to create a 0.1-gram Micromechanical Flying Insect, below, that currently has enough lift to take off.

Fearing’s ultimate goal is create a 25 mm (wingtip-to-wingtip) device capable of sustained autonomous flight.

Another California entity seems even farther along in creating robobugs.  Aerovironment hopes to have a “rough demonstrator” of its 10-gram robotic insect by the middle of 2008.  The company is creating a robot for the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which is developing four flying “robobugs” weighing up to 10 grams each and with wingspans of up to 7.5 centimeters.

 Although these sophisticated bugs are being designed to spy, an algorithm could be created that uses its mini-camera to locate a flower, land, and then look for another flower.  Equip the robobugs with sticky legs and you have a robotic bee.

Interesting to fathom.  But you would always have purists.  We’ll soon see “clone-free” labels on our meat, and in the future we may very well see this on our fruit packaging:  “No robots were used in the making of this product.”  

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