plan bee

Plan Bee, a small drone created by student Anna Haldewang, pollinates flowers. / All photos courtesy of the Savannah College of Art and Design

Bees need all the help they can get. Bee-colony collapse and insecticides that kill beneficial insects as well as pests have taken their toll. So have thefts of hives from Florida-based bee-rental companies. Even vehicle accidents can reduce the number of bees available for agriculture.

In June 2016, a truck hauling bees from a farm in Florida to New York crashed into three 18-wheelers on Interstate 85 in North Carolina. Most of the bees — almost 400 hives were in the truck — were sprayed with foam at the scene by fire-rescue personnel. The insects had to be killed because they prevented first responders from reaching the vehicles involved in the wreck.

An accident three months later, in September, resulted in an estimated millions of bees escaping when a truck carrying them to a farm in Florida’s Hillsborough County overturned in Missouri.

Student wants to help with Plan Bee

Anna Haldewang

Anna Haldewang has an idea that, in a few years, might help the embattled bees. She has invented a prototype for a bee drone that, using a camera, detects flowers and then employs a suction mechanism to remove pollen from one plant. The drone, called Plan Bee, then blows the pollen into another plant.

An industrial-design student at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in southeast Georgia, Haldewang says that one of her assignments was to create a self-sustainable object that stimulates the growth of plants.

“I looked up what a plant needs: In addition to water, soil and sun, plants require cross-pollination. I knew I could do something with that, and had an idea for a cross-pollination drone,” she writes in an email.

One of her goals in completing the assignment was to counter the often-negative perception of drones. She says she wanted to “design something that would be used for good, to further a common goal for humanity, the botanical and wildlife population of the earth.”

Plan Bee is small enough to hold in your hand

Plan Bee consists of a foam core, a plastic body and two propellers. Six sections of the drone meet at the bottom, and all six sections have tiny holes that let Plan Bee gather pollen as it hovers over plants. It stores what it collects and, later, releases the pollen into another plant.

Haldewang believes that her versatile creation, which she designed to function much like a honeybee, might solve a variety of issues. “Plan Bee can help consumers create custom gardens, and could even one day aid in large-scale agriculture and farming. Part of the purpose of my Plan Bee pollinating drone is to show that technology can be an extraordinary complement to the natural world.”

She knows how crucial bees are

Though she admits she’s still in the early stages with her invention, Haldewang is working on a patent and hopes to have a marketable version within two years. She obviously recognizes the importance of bees: “It’s fascinating that a creature as small as a bee is responsible for so many ecosystems thriving.”

The mascot of the Savannah College of Art and Design is a bee. That irony is not lost on SCAD co-founder and President Paula Wallace. “It takes a Bee to make a bee capable of global good. Anna’s ‘Plan Bee’ ingeniously couples technology with artistic invention.”