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The Internet of Things has fueled explosive growth in business use, and its applications go beyond delivery services. These drones are widely used by farmers to soar over huge fields and monitor temperature, humidity or crop health. Which needs so much power to fly that they cannot get very far without needing a charge. Now the engineers at the University of Washington have created a sensing system that is small enough to ride abroad a bumble bee. This forms a solution for the need for uninterrupted power for flying because insects can fly on their own. The team of engineers addressed a set of complications to come up with this application. One was that insects cannot carry much weight. And secondly, the GPS receivers which work for helping drones report their positions, consume too much power.
Bumblebees can carry the tiny battery that powers the system because they are large enough for that. Also, they return to their hive every night where the batteries can be wirelessly recharged. The GPS receivers are power hungry to ride on a small insect, the team of engineers came up with a method that uses no power to localize the bees. A set up of multiple antennas that broadcast signals from a base station across a specific area. A receiver attached to the bee's backpack can use the strength of the signal and the angle difference between the bee and the base station can triangulate the bee's position.
The team experimented the localization system on a soccer field with a base station with four antennas on one side of the field, and a bee with a backpack flying around in a jar that is moved away from the antenna. The team was able to detect the bee's position within 80 meters.
Adding a series of small sensors to the backpack can enable monitoring temperature, humidity, and light intensity. Hence the bees could collect data logged along with their location can provide information about a whole farm. The data is collected through a method called backscatter that can be uploaded while the bee returns to its hive. Also, this information can be shared by reflecting radio waves transmitted from a nearby antenna.
Having insects that carry sensor systems could benefit farming because bees can sense things that electronic devices cannot.