Syracuse native develops honey bee drone

July 24th, 2017

By Sherry Van Arsdall for the Goshen News | Indiana Economic Digest

A declining honey bee population may call for a Plan B in cross-pollinating crops — or perhaps a Plan Bee.

Syracuse native Anna Haldewang developed Plan Bee as a college project. This innovative device spotlights the plight of the declining honey bee population.

Plan Bee is a self-sufficient drone that cross-pollinates plants by working with nature, Haldewang said.

She designed the drone to mimic a bee transferring pollen from one plant to another. The device — the size of a hand — uses ultraviolet light in its camera to spot a flower. The drone then sucks in pollen from the plant and expels it onto other plants to enable cross-pollination. The propellers on the drone are specifically designed to push air through the top vents.

Her concept of Plan Bee came after an assignment in an entry level design class at Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia, where she graduated in June with a bachelor’s degree in industrial design and a minor in marine design.

“The assignment was to create a self-sustainable object the stimulates the growth of plants,” Haldewang said. “Plants need not only water, soil and sun but also cross-pollination.”

After watching the 2009 documentary, “Vanishing of the Bees,” about colony collapse disorder, which is the catastrophic depletion of the honeybee population caused by the introduction of harmful pesticides into the environment, she said she got to thinking about the effects if bees disappeared and what would happen to fruits and vegetables.

“It was fascinating that a creature as small as a bee is responsible for so many ecosystems,” she said.

Through trial and error during the four-week assignment period, Haldewang designed 50 different prototypes before settling on the final concept.

“It was a fast-paced, go-go project,” she said.

As an industrial design major, Haldewang said she wanted to demonstrate that drones could be used for something good and get away from the negative perception by a lot of people that drones are just for military applications and/or for surveillance.

The interest in Plan Bee by the media has taken Haldewang completely by surprise with more than 200 articles and interviews worldwide, she said.

“Plan Bee is changing the way people view the agricultural world and bringing attention to the declining bee population,” she said.

Her future plans are to work full-time on Plan Bee to make it available to the public and further promote people’s connection to nature by raising the awareness of how bees work and their importance to our food system, she added.

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