A team of researchers from Harvard University that created the RoboBees are developing the robotic insects to be able to pollinate crops.
The researchers are pushing the development because of the phenomenon of colony collapse disorder that continues to threaten the honeybee population, which are responsible for the pollination of one-third of global food crops.
The RoboBees, first introduced last year by the team led by engineering professor Robert Wood, are bee-sized robots that have the ability to hover in mid-air when connected to a power source.
The breakthrough in micro-aerial vehicles was published in the Science journal. However, at the time, the team found it impossible to add more weight to the tiny body of the robot without sacrificing its ability to fly.
However, Kevin Ma, Harvard graduate student and mechanical engineer, said that their team is currently "on the eve of the next big development" for the RoboBees, as the robots are now able to take on more weight while in flight.
The team believes that in 10 years, the RoboBees will be ready to carry out artificial pollination on food crops, which will be a much needed reinforcement if the honeybee population continues its decline.
The seriousness of the honeybee population decrease is so severe that the White House has issued a presidential memorandum to address the problem.
"Over the past few decades, there has been a significant loss of pollinators, including honey bees, native bees, birds, bats, and butterflies, from the environment. The problem is serious and requires immediate attention to ensure the sustainability of our food production systems, avoid additional economic impact on the agricultural sector, and protect the health of the environment," according to the memorandum issued by the White House.
Another study from Harvard University has determined neonicotinoids as a possible cause of the phenomenon. Neonicotinoids are kinds of pesticides that have similar characteristics as nicotine.
Other possible causes for colony collapse disorder include disease and parasites.
RoboBees are just one of the many plans that are being prepared to either aid in the recovery of the honeybee population or to replace the honeybees that have died from colony collapse disorder.
However, before RoboBees can take flight and do the duties of honeybees in pollinating crops, they have to be able to communicate with each other to coordinate their actions as a single hive.
RoboBees could be used as a "stopgap measure while a solution to CCD is implemented," as posted on the website for the project.