A team of researchers at the University of Tampere has developed a micro-robot prototype called FAIRY (Flying Aero-robots based on Light Responsive Materials Assembly) as an alternative to natural pollination in case bees disappear. Pollinating insects are essential in virtually any ecosystem and bees are one of the key pieces of the natural balance. Although they are not currently in danger of extinction, if this were to happen, humans would have to be prepared to replace them.
The micro robot weighs only 1.2 mg and uses natural wind as its drive and movement, while sunlight is its control tool. It is equipped with a light-sensitive soft actuator, which allows it to move and change direction. Although its aerodynamics are designed to take off taking advantage of wind gusts, landing is more complicated, which represents the biggest challenge of the project. The solution could lie in a control system that allows the robot to steer its course towards areas that need pollination.
The FAIRY project started in 2021 and is expected to have the final prototype around 2026. In an era of technological revolution, pollinating robots could be a realistic and necessary alternative in case bees disappear.