Bees with tiny sensor backpacks replace farm drones

Field monitoring can be a difficult task for farmers, for which they have now started using drone technology but that too has limits. Now, researchers might have developed a smarter way by equipping bees with tiny electronic, sensor backpacks.

Bees with tiny sensor backpacks replace farm drones

Researchers from the University of Washington have developed sensor backpacks that are light, about 0.0035 ounces, efficient enough to ride on a bumblebee, and capable enough to gather data for longer time periods over relatively long distances.

Where normal drones can rarely fly for over 20 to 30 minutes at a time before needing to be recharged, the backpacks will be able to collect data for up to seven hours at a time. Also, the electronic backpacks won’t have to be replaced very often as they can be wirelessly recharged and transmit data when the bees return back to their hives, explained Futurism.

Instead of setting up power-consuming GPS for tracking bee’s locations, the researchers set up several broadcasting antennas and had the bee’s pack triangulate positions based on signal strength and the angle difference. The bees would then send their data using backscatter, reflecting radio waves from nearby antennas, as per Engadget.

The example backpacks can only store around 30KB of data and gather basic information such as humidity, light and temperature around the bee. Also, they couldn’t be controlled like drones.

For future, the scientists wish to craft more elaborated data collecting technology, such as live data, and tell backpacks to only collect data when the bees fly to certain areas.