This tiny flying robot could work as an artificial pollinator

The decline of pollinators, particularly bees, is having a grave impact on agriculture and human health. Scientists estimate that 4.7% of the world’s total production of fruit, 3.2% of vegetables, and 4.7% nuts is now lost because of inadequate pollination. But there’s hope. Researchers at Tampere University in Finland have developed a robot that could serve as an artificial pollinator.

The team was inspired by dandelion seeds and tapped into the technological advances in stimuli-responsive polymers used in small, wirelessly-controlled soft-bodied robots, which can walk, swim, jump, or even hover. The result was a polymer-assembly robot that uses wind and light to fly — a world first, according to the researchers.

The robot resembles a dandelion seed and has several biomimetic features. Its porous structure and light weight (1.2mg) enable it to float in the air, directed by the wind. Notably, the robot can also adapt manually to wind direction and force by changing its shape. And thanks to a stable separated vortex ring generation it’s suitable for long-distance wind-assisted travelling.

tiny pollinator robot powered by wind and light

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