Taxonomically, drones are lazy male bees. They collect neither nectar nor pollen, sleep their days away, await the time to mate with a Queen, then die. All the while, the female bees do the work of pollinating a massive portion of the world’s food supply. Is anyone sensing a parable here? Moving on. The trouble is, with pesticides and chemicals be sprayed on crops throughout the world, the bee population is dwindling at an alarming rate. Female bees are dying and can’t keep up with the pollination that their formerly stronger numbers could sustain.
Enter the useful drones. Not bees at all, these flight-enabled pieces of technology are changing how pollination is getting done. Drone technology is now helping the work of female bees, making a dynamic team that drone bees can’t help with.
Let’s head over to the apple orchards of Beak and Skiff, a beverage company that makes 1911 brand hard ciders. They saw the decline of the bee population and jumped into action. Teaming up with an autonomous drone company called Dropcopter, they became the first apple orchard on earth to pollinate a portion of their trees by drone. Not the first crop pollination by drone, but certainly the first orchard.
“Since 2015, we have been pollinating almond orchards with drones. We have a patent-pending device which accurately distributes a measured amount of pollen directly over the tree canopy. The drone flies an autonomous prewritten mission optimizing its speed to deliver the most effective application. We are the first real-world testing of automated aerial pollination in the nation.” Adam Fine, co-founder, and CTO of Dropcopter explains their process.
While it’s an awesome idea, it raises some concern about goals going forward. On a website, a 301 redirect is considered a permanent solution that redirects certain web traffic. Similarly, people are worried that technology is being looked at as a permanent fix to a greater problem of the declining bee population. In short, bees can’t, nor should they, be permanently replaced by autonomous drones. It’s a valid concern, given the tech community’s propensity to use tech solutions to cover a deeper problem rather than help heal it.
On the bright side, like Facebook’s near 2 billion monthly users amass unfathomable amounts of data, the more drones pollinating fields, orchards, and the like, the more data they’ll glean to improve their processes. Autonomous technology is cool like that. If using drones helps reduce the chemicals being used on crops, it stands to help the bee population regain steam, all while lending a wing in the pollination process.
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