Another startup is in the throes of birth in the neighborhood of North Dakota and aims to save the decreasing bee population in the world. The Australian startup named Bee Innovative recently announced that it was collaborating with the University of North Dakota’s campus in Grand Forks, N.D., in a venture that could see drones coming to the rescue of their natural counterparts: bees! Paul Snyder, Director of the UAS program, told a local newspaper that the company was expected to set camp in North Dakota by summer this year. Bee Innovative has been dealing with bumblebees in real-time with regard to precision pollination. The current agreement envisages enhancing the machine vision capability of BeeDar which is the existing drone platform being deployed by the startup.
The company states that its bee population devices have been having issues with identifying and staying clear of nets and other hurdles that can lead to collisions and damage to gear and crops. However, Bee Innovative claims that their drone platform has resulted in a 20 percent increase in crop growth and profit for farmers from seasons to seasons.
The collaboration regarding bee population seems to be a wonderful initiative for a couple of reasons: the University of North Dakota has been a pioneer in drone development over the years. Also, honey production is a crucial part of the state’s economy being a leader in the country for the past 14 consecutive years.
There has been a decrease in the bee population of late as output seemed to have gone down by 11% in contrast to 2016 along with the honey-producing colonies in North Dakota decreasing by 6% to 455,000 according to the statistics released by the Associated Press. The average yield has plummeted by 4 pounds to 74 pounds per colony and the total value of honey produced in the state decreased by 9%. North Dakota has been at the forefront of drone development over the years. The state was one of the six states that were allowed to set up a test site for commercial drone applications in 2014 which was named as the Northern Plains UAS Test Site in Grand Forks. The site was part of the FAA program that was dedicated to mainstreaming drones into the airspace.
The site gained operational status from the FAA and became the first one to fly under the agreement. The site covers more than half of the state with more than 45,000 square miles of legitimate airspace. The first unmanned airport in the country, Grand Sky Development Park, became operational at the Grand Fork’s Air Base in 2015. $5 million worth of money was reserved by the state to expand infrastructure at the site in its 2015-17 executive budget and another $7.5 million was earmarked for runway enhancements. The North Dakota Department of Transportation was announced as one of 10 sites selected for FAA’s drone pilot program. We will discuss more regarding bee population control going forward.