ROBOROYALE: As the world’s most successful pollinators, bees play a huge part in every aspect of the ecosystem. So, any decline in bee populations could pose a threat to global agriculture. In this context, the EU-funded RoboRoyale project is developing and combining micro-robotic, biological and machine learning technologies into a system that can support the well-being of the honeybee queen, which is responsible for the reproductive success and efficiency of a colony. Specifically, the micro-robotic system will operate around the queen. For instance, this multi-robot system will replace the court bees that are in charge of feeding, grooming and cleaning of the queen as well as the facilitation of pheromone transfer from the queen to the workers.
Earth's ecosystems are in a rapid decline of species diversity and abundance. One of the most affected groups is honeybees, a keystone species that play a key role in pollination and hence crucial for ecosystem stability. The goal of the RoboRoyale project is to develop and combine micro-robotic, biological, and machine learning technologies into a system that can support the well-being of the honeybee queen, the single key individual responsible for the reproductive success and efficiency of the colony. The core of the project is the development of a micro-robotic system, designed to operate around the queen. This multi-robot system will replace the “court bees” that are in charge of feeding, grooming and cleaning of the queen as well as the facilitation of pheromone transfer from the queen to the workers. Through a combination of machine learning, behavioral modeling and advanced control methods, our system will gradually learn how to groom the queen in order to regulate her egg-laying activity and pheromone production to optimize the hive’s macroscopic variables (e.g. brood production) in a scientifically and ecologically informed way. The developed bio-hybrid system will serve as an important scientific tool to study honeybee biology, to support the honeybee colony health and efficiency, and to provide a stabilizing factor on the surrounding ecosystem. Moreover, showing that one can achieve a positive impact on large scale ecosystems by using microrobots to affect one single living organism, will bring radical new insights into novel possibilities of bio-hybrid technology. Although risky, the potential impact of the project will lead to foundational scientific and biotechnological approaches to synthesize symbiotic super-organisms of cooperating robots and animals. The interdisciplinary nature of the project will pave the way towards microscopic bio-compatible sensors and actuators needed to realize game-changing bio-medical, robotic and automotive systems.
Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering
The University of Manchester
Manchester, M1 3WE