Could This Plan Bee Pollination Drone Solve The Bee Crisis?

In case you haven’t heard, the bee is in serious trouble. Classified last year as an endangered species, human life overwhelmingly depends on these black and yellow pollinators as 75 percent of our food crops depend, at least partially, on pollination. The hive deaths and bee die-offs have concerned and mystified scientists for years, but now technology is stepping in to help—and hopefully take some of the pressure off this beleaguered species.

One student has created a brilliant device aimed at stepping in (or, flying in, I should say) for the dwindling bee populations in our ecosystem. The solution is a drone, and it’s called Plan Bee. The drone is a black and yellow contraption that, frankly, looks nothing like a bee. But it does act just like one, which is the important part.

Constructed out of lightweight foam core, Plan Bee has a plastic-shell body and is kept aloft by a pair of propellors. Underneath the drone are tiny holes, through which pollen is sucked in from a flower. The pollen is kept in the body cavity for safe storage before being released onto another plant, enabling cross-pollination.

So who is the genius behind Plan Bee? It’s 24-year-old Anna Haldwang, an industrial design major at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia. Handewang first had the idea in a product design class. Thanks to an assignment in which a professor asked her to create “self-sustainable object that stimulates the growth of plants,” Haldewang told CNN, she was prompted to think about the plight of the bee and how it relates to our ecosystem.

“I had no idea about the danger to honeybee colonies and that bees were disappearing,” Haldwang said. The assignment that spawned Plan Bee is not only intended to earn her a good grade but also to help spread awareness about endangered bees and, increasingly, our endangered food system.

BEE  photo
Getty Images | Matt Cardy

Since bees are responsible for many of the commercially grown crops we eat (including staples such as apples, some berries and broccoli), their dwindling populations pose serious problems for farmers. And Haldewang’s Plan Bee could have large-scale farm implications.

Though Plan Bee isn’t yet available for purchase, Haldewang has already filed a patent application. She hopes to have the drone up and running in about two years, but for now she’s still figuring out the ins and outs of engineering.

“I would love to see people use it in their backyards and even create custom gardens with it,” she said. “With an actual bee, its so small you don’t notice it and how it’s pollinating flowers. With the drone you can see how the process works.”