Walmart wants to build robot bees

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It sounds like something out of a bad science fiction movie. 

Armies of robotic bees dutifully pollinating crops as part of an effort to manage and control food supply chains. 

And the company leading this insect revolution? 

Walmart. 

Yep. Walmart. 

It seems in this era of declining bee populations due to “colony collapse disorder,” the development  of autonomous robot bees known as “pollination drones” will help preserve crops dependent on pollination. 

The drones, using special sensors and cameras, would take pollen from one plant to another. 

Walmart, which is focusing more on the food and grocery business, presumably would use the cost efficient and manageable mechanical bees to ensure crops reliant on pollination are sufficiently supplied. 

The company filed for a patent in March for “systems and methods for pollinating crops via unmanned vehicles.” 

The 16-page document outlines the technology that would be used to build, deploy and manage the digital bees. 

Harvard, meanwhile, has been working with robot bees for several years already, having developed “RoboBees” that can land and attach themselves to any flat surface using static electricity, or dive into water and swim. 

One of the goals is to also develop pollination drones. 

Videos of the RoboBees in action are both mesmerizing in their mechanics and somehow disturbing when the mind wanders and integrates the bees with “robots take over the world” scenarios. 

Interestingly, an episode of the British sci-fi series, “Black Mirror,” focused on the use – or misuse – of robotic pollination bees called “Autonomous Drone Insects,” or ADIs. 

The tiny devices were hacked and used to kill people. 

Walmart’s and Harvard’s plans for pollination drones are far less nefarious. 

You can read and download Walmart’s patent application here

You can read about Harvard’s RoboBee project here and here

You can read a detailed synopsis of the “Black Mirror” episode on mechanical bees here.

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