Farmers nowadays have all sorts of equipment available that can help them monitor their fields and they range in shape and size from drones to remote monitoring – all of them systems that can either function for a limited amount of time or are otherwise quite pricey.
But the researchers at the University of Washington seem to have come up with an idea that is not costly at all and is, all in all, more organic, so to speak. They have developed tiny sensor ‘backpacks’ that can collect data over long distances and for many hours at a time. They weigh around 0.0035 ounces and can easily be attached to bumblebees.
“We decided to use bumblebees because they’re large enough to carry a tiny battery that can power our system, and they return to a hive every night where we could wirelessly recharge the batteries. For this research we followed the best methods for care and handling of these creatures.”
– Vikram Iyer, Doctoral Student at the University of Washington’s Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering
The backpacks can only store 30Kb of data, which can include information about humidity, light and temperature. After the bees are done with their day, they return to their hive where the backpack uploads the data via a method called backscatter, which shares the information via reflecting radio waves transmitted from a nearby antenna.
Paul G. Allen School / YouTube
Of course, the downside is that the bumblebees don’t listen to orders and fly wherever they feel like it but, in the future, the researchers hope to develop a more complex technology which will allow the backpacks to only collect data from certain areas of interest.