Should we populate the nature of robots to save biodiversity?

Robot-beeThe collapse of bee populations alarm longer just environmentalists, but farmers. They are now forced to rent hives for insurers the pollination of crops. This situation prompted Greenpeace to imagine a video featuring robots, the «New Bee» bee, solar-powered autonomous flying robots able to pollinate the fields operating in swarms. Better, these robots are even able to eliminate Hornets killers of bees by gassing them…
A science fiction scenario that takes little to little body in reality. While all ecosystems are totally jostled by human activity, the researchers are very seriously working solutions Robotics for what can save what can still be.

10 to 15 years of research still needed to develop the robot bee

The «New Bee» does not yet exist, but the researchers Harvard leads an equivalent project, the robobee. Researchers are working on this new type of MAV (Micro Air Vehicles) and have already developed the flight system, wings beating at 120 shots per second which will be able to propel the robot bee. This research also interested members and BAE Systems funded the development of this AVM which the focus could still take between 10 and 15 years. The project must cope with a large number of challenges, in terms of artificial intelligence, image processing, wireless communications, etc. in the ridiculously small body of an insect.

Robobees of the University of Harvard, a harmless bee and benefactor, funded by the defence industry.

Robobees of the University of Harvard, a harmless bee and benefactor, funded by the defence industry.

The example of the bee is iconic, but many other species are threatened, many other ecosystems are unbalanced. Researchers are exploring various tracks which, for many, will be Grizzly hair on the head of all environmentalists, those of synthetic biology. Wired evoque particular work of art from the Royal College of Art student, Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg. His thesis ” Designing For the Sixth Extinction ” evokes a populated future of creatures and plants reshaped by man, with synthetic devices to help plants cope with desertification, slugs robots fighting against acidification of soils, strange artificial caterpillars disseminating grains in the forests instead of animals, etc.
Beyond the vision of the artist, scientists in synthetic biology are studying multiple tracks to try to repair or improve our environment. The community of laboratories working on the issue is rich of the largest global universities: Boston, Cambridge, Harvard, Georgia Tech, MIT, Stanford, Berkeley, Uppsala, Virginia Tech or the Genopole. Most of the laboratories are working on gene therapies, but also research relating to this nature increased.

Genetic manipulation to rescue the man and a new form of “nature”

A slug restorative soil, as imagined by Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg.

A slug restorative soil, as imagined by Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg.

Thus, on the occasion of an event organized in 2013 by the Wildlife Conservation Society, a synthesis of research and possible approaches to this summer, it is exciting. The folder entitled “How will synthetic biology and conservation shape the future nature of?” had been written by Kent H. Redford (Archipelago Consulting and Wildlife Conservation Society), Bill Adams of the University of Cambridge and Georgina Mace of the University College of London. The document mentions these projects of insect cyborg, fish robots, artificial trees based on artificial photosynthesis, extensions to the human brain and nanobots fighting against our diseases. The document explains mainly what is synthetic biology, the State of the art in matters of genetic manipulation, because probably more than robotics, it is the manipulation of DNA, GMOs which are likely to shape the nature of tomorrow. Researchers have identified 6 main fields of application: bio-energy, agriculture, the protection and the “repair” of the environment, the creation of large consumer product, chemical production and health. As pointed out researchers, this industry is still in its infancy and will lead to sharp debate in the years to come.
The struggle between conservationists and environmentalists who want to preserve nature in the State and minimize the impact of human face to synthetic biology researchers who want to rewrite the DNA to adapt it to the degradation of our environment, just begun!

Translation : Bing Translator

Sources :

“Tiny Flying Robots Are Being Built To Pollinate Crops Instead Of Real Bees”, BusinessInsider, July 7, 2014

“To Save Our Ecosystems, Will We Have to Design Synthetic Creatures?”, Wired, July 1, 2014

“BAE Systems Signs Deal on Insect-Sized Robots”, NanoWerk, May 8, 2008


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