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Tiny Sensor Turns Bees Into Live Drones That Can Monitor Farm Crops

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Experts have invented a tiny sensor that can be placed onto bees, making them a small drone that can oversee farm conditions for a long period.

Typical drones can hover over around for approximately 20 minutes as the gadget needs great energy to be propelled onto the air. However, a greater source of energy equates to heavier, possibly bigger batteries.

Small Chip For Bees

University of Washington engineers recently found a way to address this problem by creating something so small and light but is also capable of keeping the drone airborne for seven hours. The answer lies in what is called "Living IoT," a tiny chip that has a lot of sensors.

This platform, which boasts wireless communication and can easily track location, is ideal for small flying insects. In this case, the technology can board bees that can fly over vast farm fields, monitor humidity conditions, and surveil over the farm for seven hours.

Moreover, the sensor attached to bees can prove to be helpful to biologists studying the behavior and navigation of the creatures. Don't' worry, putting in on a "backpack" on these tiny insects may sound heavy, but the Living IoT only weighs about seven grains of uncooked rice, or 102 mg.

Bees As Live Drones

Why bees of all the insects? They are capable of taking in loads close to 113 mg or .00025 pounds, or the average weight of a bee. The tech doesn't cost an arm and a leg, unlike the conventional hobby drones.

"We decided to use bumblebees because they're large enough to carry a tiny battery that can power our system," said Vikram Iyer of the University of Washington Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Researcher Shyamnath Gollakota explained that bees are far more advantageous than man-made drones because these can soar for hours and that they can sense a lot of things that technology cannot.

RoboFly

The group may be familiar for some and that's because they are also responsible for the RoboFly, which is basically a robotic insect that couldn't go far because it needs a lot of energy, precisely the challenge for the team. After which, the light-bulb moment came: "Why don't we use nature's basic flying machine?" Gollakota wondered.

Apart from the fact that bees are skillful in carrying loads, they also go home to their hives to charge "wirelessly" at night, also the time to extract all the data gathered throughout the day. Unlike previous "backpacks" on bees that use GPS, the Living IoT used antennas that send signals to a base, and the receiver deduces the location of the insect with the signal's strength as well as the difference in angle of the bee and the base.

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