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Walmart wants to make autonomous robotic bees a reality

The giant retail chain makes a buzz by filing a patent for remote-controlled bees capable of detecting pollen.

Bee populations are declining at such a rate that even the likes of Walmart want to get into the robotic bee business. 

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Now that several types of bees and bumblebees are sadly on the endangered-species list, it's time for humans to do their part to make sure plants still get pollinated.

It looks like Walmart wants to help. On March 8, the company filed a patent for autonomous robot bees called pollination drones, which can help to pollinate crops.

Walmart also filed five other patents for additional farming drones, including one drone that tracks down plant pests, and another that monitors the ongoing health of various crops, according to Science Alert

But it's Walmart's bee drone patent that looks the most promising. While these bee drones can pollinate like real bees, they are also equipped with tiny cameras to help detect and spot the locations of the crops that actually need pollinating. Sensors on the drones assure that successful pollination takes place. 

This isn't the first time Walmart has dabbled in robots. The company is also testing scanner robots, built by Bossa Nova Robotics, which monitor inventory cheaper than human employees in its stores, according to a report from Fortune magazine on Monday.

Walmart did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Artificial pollinators aren't exactly the stuff of futuristic dreams. Harvard University researchers introduced the first RoboBees in 2013. More recently in 2017, an industrial design student at Georgia's Savannah College of Art and Design created Plan Bee -- a drone controlled by a smart device that artificially pollinates flowers on behalf of bees.

But before anyone panics that all these robotic bees might turn on humanity like the horrific "Black Mirror" episode "Hated in the Nation," these autonomous pollination drones are still in the prototype phase. 

Hopefully, inventors will be sure to prevent any angry insect robot uprisings in the future, while these tiny machines successfully manage to pollinate flowers like real bees.