Drones Target Flowers
The pair loaded their solution into a bubble gun and released pollen-bearing bubbles into a pear orchard — at a rate of about 2,000 grains per bubble — finding that 95 percent of the targeted flowers bore fruit.
“It sounds somewhat like fantasy, but the… soap bubble allows effective pollination and assures that the quality of fruits is the same as with conventional hand pollination,” said Miyako.
Hand pollination is a much more labor intensive process.
Finally, the researchers took their experiment to the skies — loading a bubble gun onto a small drone programmed to fly on a predetermined route.
Since flowers were no longer in bloom, they targeted a group of fake lilies.
When flown from a height of two meters and at a velocity of two meters per second, the device hit the plastic plants at a 90 percent success rate.
Miyako said he was in talks with a company for future commercialization but more work was needed to improve the robot’s precision, and to potentially add autonomous flower targeting.
The study is thought to be the first exploring the properties of soap bubbles as pollen carriers, and to then link the concept to autonomous drones.
The authors wrote they hoped it sparked a renewed interest in artificial pollination to address “the decline in pollinator insects, the heavy labor involved in artificial pollination, and the soaring costs of pollen grains.”