Professor at the Japan Advanced Institute of Science Japan and author of the study, Eijiro Miyako has been working for several years on robots pollinators, but the latter tended to crush the flowers.
“It was very sad,” he said to the AFP.
The scientist has the idea of using soap bubbles while playing in a park with her three year old son.
Mr. Miyako, and Xi Yang, co-author of the study, analysis of soap bubbles under the microscope, confirming that they could carry pollen grains.
The experts then tested the effects of five agents of the available surface in the trade to make bubbles, including the lauramidopropyl betaine used in cosmetic industry for its foaming properties. It has proven to be the best option for the growth of the tube that develops from each pollen grain after it has been deposited on a flower.
They put the foaming solution in a machine with bubbles and projected these bubbles loaded of pollen in an orchard of pear trees. This method, at the rate of 2,000 pollen grains per bubble, allowed to pollinate 95% of the flowers are targeted and then gave fruit.
“That sounds a bit fanciful, but the soap bubble allows a pollination effective and ensures that the fruits of a quality equal to that of the hand-pollination of conventional,” stresses Eijiro Miyako.
The researchers then turned their experiments into the sky, fitted to a small uav to the path programmed with a pitcher of soap bubbles.
This time the targets were fake lys, the flowering season is past.
Flying two meters above the ground at a speed of two metres per second, the spacecraft was able to reach the plants in plastic covered with a success rate of 90%.
Mr. Miyako is currently in discussion with a company for a future commercialization of this technique.
He adds, however, that the precision with which the robot can still be improved and that an automated targeting of flowers could be added.
This is the first study to explore the properties of soap bubbles to the transportation of the pollen, and to consider the use of drones autonomous.
The authors of the article hoped to spark a renewed interest in the methods of artificial pollination.