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Now, engineers at the University of Washington have created a sensing system that is small enough to ride aboard a bumblebee. Because insects can fly on their own, the package requires only a tiny rechargeable battery that could last for seven hours of flight and then charge while the bees are in their hive at night. The research team will present its findings online Dec. 11 and in person at the ACM MobiCom 2019 conference.
"Drones can fly for maybe 10 or 20 minutes before they need to charge again, whereas our bees can collect data for hours," said senior author Shyam Gollakota, an associate professor in the UW's Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering. "We showed for the first time that it's possible to actually do all this computation and sensing using insects in lieu of drones."
Insects - Drones - Power - Problem - Technique
While using insects instead of drones solves the power problem, this technique has its own set of complications: First, insects can't carry much weight. And second, GPS receivers, which work well for helping drones report their positions, consume too much power for this application. To develop a sensor package that could fit on an insect and sense its location, the team had to address both issues.
"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," said co-author Vikram Iyer, a doctoral student in the UW Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering. "For this research we followed the best methods for care and handling of these creatures."
Research - Groups - Bumblebees - Backpacks - Trackers
Previously other research groups have fitted bumblebees with simple "backpacks" by supergluing small trackers, like radio-frequency identification, or RFID, tags, to them to follow their movement. For these types of experiments, researchers...
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