Researchers at the Harvard Microrobotics Laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, have developed a prototype robotic bee.
The Mobee, short for Monolithic Bee, is fitted with sensors – akin to eyes and antennae – that let it detect objects and other robotic bees. It has a carbon-fibre airframe and titanium wings. Potential applications include crop pollination, traffic monitoring and high-resolution weather mapping.
A new manufacturing process, which uses hinges to assemble 18 layers of materials in one movement, enables the robotic bees to be mass-produced. The process could also be used to make electro-mechanical surgical instruments.
The Harvard researchers are currently developing algorithms and communication techniques that would allow the robotic bees to mimic the ways in which bees work with each other to scout, forage and plan. The project is due to be completed within the next three years.
For more on the civilian and commercial uses of autonomous robots, look out for our upcoming report, Dawn of the Drone, publishing in December.