U.S. space agency NASA is funding the development of a swarm of robotic bees called Marsbees, which will be used in future to study everything about the Red Planet.
Marsbees will be around the size of a regular bumblebee, but they will have huge cicada-sized wings that will allow them to fly in the Martian atmosphere, which is about one percent as thick as Earth’s. The bees will have sensors and communication devices embedded in them that will help to send the images of the Red planet to research teams on Earth.
The job of Marsbees will be to map terrains, collect land samples and search for signs of life on the planet. They will use a Mars rover as a charging point. It is claimed that Marsbees will help in carrying out more detailed and extensive studies of Mars than land-based rovers currently operating on the surface of the planet.
Dr. Chang-kwon Kang of the University of Alabama said that Marsbees can significantly enhance the Mars exploration mission. The micro flapping robots are currently being developed and tested by researchers in Japan, while Kang and his team in the US will model, analyze and optimize the bee robots for conditions on Mars.
The Marsbees project is among one of the 25 early stage innovations picked by NASA for funding under its Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) scheme. The team has been awarded around US$125,000 to further develop the idea.
Jim Reuter, the acting associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, said that the NIAC scheme gives NASA an opportunity to explore innovative and visionary ideas that could help transform the space agency’s future missions by creating radically better or entirely new concepts. He added that the concepts can later be evaluated for potential inclusion into NASA’s early-stage technology portfolio.