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Title: System design for inferring colony-level pollination activity through miniature bee-mounted sensors
Abstract In digital agriculture, large-scale data acquisition and analysis can improve farm management by allowing growers to constantly monitor the state of a field. Deploying large autonomous robot teams to navigate and monitor cluttered environments, however, is difficult and costly. Here, we present methods that would allow us to leverage managed colonies of honey bees equipped with miniature flight recorders to monitor orchard pollination activity. Tracking honey bee flights can inform estimates of crop pollination, allowing growers to improve yield and resource allocation. Honey bees are adept at maneuvering complex environments and collectively pool information about nectar and pollen sources through thousands of daily flights. Additionally, colonies are present in orchards before and during bloom for many crops, as growers often rent hives to ensure successful pollination. We characterize existing Angle-Sensitive Pixels (ASPs) for use in flight recorders and calculate memory and resolution trade-offs. We further integrate ASP data into a colony foraging simulator and show how large numbers of flights refine system accuracy, using methods from robotic mapping literature. Our results indicate promising potential for such agricultural monitoring, where we leverage the superiority of social insects to sense the physical world, while providing data acquisition on par with explicitly engineered systems.  more » « less
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Scientific Reports
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National Science Foundation
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