"This award is funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-5)."

RoboBees: A convergence of body, brain, and colony

J. Ayers, G. Barrows, D. Brooks, S. Combes, L. Mahadevan, G. Morrisett, R. Nagpal, S. Ramanathan, G.-Y. Wei, M. Welsh, R.J. Wood, T. Zickler

This project entails the creation of a coordinated colony of robotic bees, RoboBees. Research topics are split between the ?body?, ?brain?, and ?colony?. Topics within the ?body? include all aspects of the flight apparatus, propulsion, and power systems. The ?brain? involves research on the electronic nervous system equivalent of a bee?s brain including circuits for sensing and decision-making. Finally, research within the ?colony? entails communication and control algorithms that will enable performance well beyond the capabilities of an individual. Each of these research areas is drawn together by the challenges of recreating various functionalities of natural bees. One such example is pollination: Bees coordinate to interact with complex natural systems by using a diversity of sensors, a hierarchy of task delegation, unique communication, and an effective flapping-wing propulsion system. Pollination and other agricultural tasks will serve as challenge thrusts throughout the life of this project. Such tasks require expertise across a broad spectrum of scientific topics. The research team includes experts in biology, computer science, electrical and mechanical engineering, and materials science, assembled to address fundamental challenges in developing RoboBees.

Beyond pollination and assisted agriculture, coordinated robotic insects will have substantial impact upon rescue workers for search and rescue and hazardous environment exploration applications. High fidelity environmental monitoring, traffic monitoring, and mobile sensor networks are just a few examples of the future impact of coordinated RoboBees. Since each RoboBee component must be developed from scratch, technological fallout will be prevalent throughout research on the body, brain, and colony. This new technology and the exciting and tangible nature of robotic bees present a tremendous opportunity to catalyze young minds and encourage their participation in science and engineering. An integral part of this program is the development of a museum exhibit, in partnership with the Museum of Science, Boston, which will explore the life of a bee and the technologies required to create RoboBees. ¬ For more information, please visit: http://robobees.seas.harvard.edu

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Information and Intelligent Systems (IIS)
Standard Grant (Standard)
Application #
Program Officer
Kenneth C. Whang
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Harvard University
United States
Zip Code