Most are familiar with the sad face that bee populations are in heavy decline in many parts of the world. While the reasons are still not yet well understood, the problem has gotten prevalent enough that technologists have started thinking about whether self-sustaining drones could spread the pollen instead.
The National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science in Japan has successfully made a proof-of-concept "pollinator", from a $100 drone and some low-tech ingredients (horsehair and a sticky gel).
The result is no immediate replacement for the billions of bees that are required to pollinate trillions of flowers every year, but it encapsulates something important with these kinds of innovations. The first proof-of-concept, often "hacked together", can be the conduit that quickly spurs interest in the right area, attracts the high caliber of attention needed to solve the problem and add layers of ingenuity, and eventuate in a truly scalable solution later on down the track.
Don't be afraid to hack together V1.
Could there be anything gloomier to think about than a mechanical bee? The latest effort comes from Japan, where investigators at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science, in Tsukuba, were looking for new uses for sticky substances called ionic liquid gels that have unusual physical properties.