This little flying robot could work as an artificial pollinator

The decline of pollinators, especially bees, has serious consequences for agriculture and human health. Scientists estimate that 4.7% of the world’s total production of fruits, 3.2% of vegetables and 4.7% of nuts is now lost due to insufficient pollination. But there is hope. Researchers at the University of Tampere in Finland have developed a robot that can act as an artificial pollinator.

Inspired by dandelion seeds, the team took advantage of technological advances in sensory-responsive polymers used in small, wirelessly controlled soft-bodied robots that can walk, swim, jump or even hover. The result was a polymer assembly robot that uses wind and light to fly – a world first, according to the researchers.

The robot resembles a dandelion seed and has several biomimetic properties. Its porous structure and light weight (1.2mg) allow it to float in the air guided by the wind. Notably, the robot can also manually adjust to the wind direction and force by changing its shape. And thanks to a stable, separated vortex ring generation, it is suitable for wind-assisted travel over long distances.