Drones equipped with soap bubbles could be an answer to starvation

WION Web Team
New Delhi, Delhi, IndiaUpdated: Jun 18, 2020, 01:45 PM IST

A swarm of bees (representative image). Photograph:(Reuters)

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The scientist and co-author Xi Yang first used microscopes to find out whether soap bubbles are capable of carrying pollen grains

Flying robots equipped with soap bubbles could one day help in solving the problem of starvation, a study said.

According to a study published in iScience on Wednesday, a Japanese researcher showed how soap bubbles can be used to pollinate fruit-bearing plants, which are seen as crucial in keeping the world fed in the coming decades in the face of vanishing bee populations.

Eijiro Miyako, associate professor at the Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in Nomi said he had been working on robotic pollinators for years, but was disappointed when the toy drones he used destroyed the flowers.

"It was too sad," Miyako said, reported AFP. 

Miyako got this idea of trying bubbles when he was playing with his three-year-old son in a park and got inspired when he noticed that one of the bubbles harmlessly burst on the child's face.

The scientist and co-author Xi Yang first used microscopes to find out whether soap bubbles are capable of carrying pollen grains.

They found a solution called lauramidopropyl betaine, which is used in cosmetic products to boost the formation of foams, resulting in improved growth of the tube that develops from pollen grains after they are deposited on flowers.

Calcium was also added to support the germination process, which also helped in maintaining the optimum pH balance.

The solution was then added into a bubble gun and released it into a pear orchard, at a rate of nearly 2,000 grains per bubble.

The researchers found that 95 per cent of the targetted flowers carried fruits. 

"It sounds somewhat like fantasy, but the... soap bubble allows effective pollination and assures that the quality of fruits is the same as with conventional hand pollination," Miyako said.

Finally, the scientists tried the same experiment with the help of a small drone. targetting a group of fake illies. 

The drown flown from a height of two meters and at a velocity of two meters per second, hit the plastic plants at a 90 per cent success rate.

The study is thought to be the first of its kind to find out soap bubbles being used as pollen carriers, and to then use it with the help of autonomous drones.