'Plan Bee' drone can pollinate flowers when real bees can't

This drone prototype mimics the shape of a flower while spreading pollen.

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Bonnie Burton
Journalist Bonnie Burton writes about movies, TV shows, comics, science and robots. She is the author of the books Live or Die: Survival Hacks, Wizarding World: Movie Magic Amazing Artifacts, The Star Wars Craft Book, Girls Against Girls, Draw Star Wars, Planets in Peril and more! E-mail Bonnie.
Bonnie Burton
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Bees get a hand in pollinating flowers with the Plan Bee drone.

Savannah College of Art and Design

With several species of bees and bumblebees on the endangered-species list, it's time for humans to help restore bee populations -- and to make sure plants still get pollinated.

Anna Haldewang, an industrial design student at Georgia's Savannah College of Art and Design, has created "Plan Bee,"a drone controlled by a smart device that artificially pollinates flowers on behalf of bees.

Some plants like ferns and mosses reproduce through spores. The rest need pollen, and most of those need help spreading it.

After 50 design variations, Haldewang settled on the final appearance, which has a flower shape (when flipped upside down), while keeping the classic black and yellow color palette of a bumblebee.

The fist-size drone is made of plastic on the outside and foam on the inside with propellers on top. The drone's body is divided into six sections with tiny holes underneath that suck pollen into the device as it hovers over one flower then blows the pollen out when flying over other flowers.

Because the device is much larger than a bee, the drone shows off the cross-pollination process in a way that could be educational.

"I would love to see people use it in their backyards and even create custom gardens with it," Haldewang told CNN. "With an actual bee, it's so small you don't notice it and how it's pollinating flowers. With the drone you can see how the process works."

While the Plan Bee drone is a prototype, Haldewang has already filed a patent application and hopes to develop it as a viable product in two years.