Anna Haldewang ’11 is creating a lot of buzz with with her Plan Bee drone. An industrial design major at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia, Haldewang developed the personal robotic bee to mimic how bees pollinate flowers and crops like apples, blueberries, melons, and broccoli.
Haldewang wanted people to understand the significance of bees to human life – so she created the “bee drone” to be a functional teaching tool that couples technology and design. She developed the idea for Plan Bee, which can be controlled by a smart device, in a product design class after a professor challenged her to create a self-sustainable object that stimulates the growth of plants.
“You need sun, water, soil and cross-pollination for that to happen,” Haldewang said. The pollination made her think of bees; and, while doing her initial research, she was struck by the recent collapse of honeybee colonies throughout the United States.
That prompted her to create an educational tool that addressed her assignment and would also help spread awareness about the importance of the bees’ role in sustainable food production. The hand-sized yellow-and-black device, which went through 50 design variations, does not look like a bee. Haldewang explained she wanted to give the model the essence of a bee without exactly replicating the insect.
When SCAD released information about Plan Bee, it was picked up by CNN Money, CNET, and several other major news organizations. The story made it back to Culver when the local CBS affiliate, WSBT, ran a short story.
Made with a foam core, the plastic-shell body uses two propellers to fly. Each of the drone’s six sections has tiny holes which sucks in the pollen when the device hovers over it. The pollen is stored in the body cavity before it’s later expelled for cross-pollination.
“When you flip it upside down, it looks like a flower,” she said, adding it was her way to honor the plant’s role in pollination.
Haldewang is still fine-tuning the engineering. She has filed a patent application and is hoping to have a marketable product in about two years. Haldewang’s plan for the device, though, is for it to be an educational tool first.
“I would love to see people use it in their backyards and even create custom gardens with it,” she said. “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.”