As we all know, the downfall of the human race will come when we’re all replaced by robots (assuming we don’t destroy the planet first). But bees are already in trouble, so you can’t blame their robot doppelgangers, made by scientists at Harvard. In fact, the robobees (or, as the researchers sometimes call their creations, “micro air vehicles”) might have to step in if populations of real bees get too decimated.
Look, they can fly!
Ok, so they don’t fly all that well yet. And they need to be connected to an external power source, because, as Scientific American explains, “Any battery (or other known energy-storage system) strong enough to power the RoboBee would be too heavy to allow the robot to take flight.”
But the ultimate goal is to make swarms of these little robots act pretty much like bees do. The team writes in SciAm:
In 2009 the three of us 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.
They’re still a ways off from that goal, but we’re pretty convinced they’ll figure it out. Just look how clever they’ve gotten at manufacturing the bee robots, using a sort of high-tech origami:
One day, these little machines might be able to pollinate fields — and if the bees keep dying off, they’ll need to. If the real bees survive, the pseudobees could also perform less bee-like functions (military surveillance, traffic monitoring). If they decided to give these guys stingers and use them as terrifying death swarms, well … watch out.
The Robobee Project Is Building Flying Robots the Size of Insects, Scientific American.