At just 15cm in size these microdrones that hover over flower clusters for 15 seconds could be the answer to glasshouse pollination problems.
A $1.3 million research project is investigating whether small autonomous drones can effectively pollinate tomatoes and strawberries in Australian protected-cropping environments.
If successful then it would stop the need for manual methods.
Hort Innovation chief executive officer Brett Fifield said the pollination of tomatoes in glasshouses was often done by hand, with people having to go row by row to vibrate the plants to mimic "buzz" pollination.
He added that strawberries represented an industry moving from typical field conditions to exploring the benefits of glasshouses.
But he said honey bees, often seen pollinating strawberries in fields, were not used in glasshouses because they did not cope well in that environment.
"Pollinating self-fertile crops such as strawberries and tomatoes in protected cropping environments can be labour intensive and time-consuming," Mr Fifield said.
"What this new research aims to do is remove the need for manual pollination, while improving fruit set consistency to result in higher yield."
Polybee chief executive Siddharth Jadhav said turbulent air from the drone vibrates the flowers to disperse pollen, before the drone moves on to the next plant.
"Our drones have been developed for use in protected cropping environments with sub-centimetre accuracy positioning," Mr Jadhav said.
"Each utilises 3D vision techniques for precision, autonomous docking and wireless charging.
"In an indoor farm, a drone takes off for pollination and plant measurements, returns to its base when it runs out of charge, recharges wirelessly within an hour and a half, and returns to operate from where it left off."
At the end of this project in September 2023, a report will be submitted recommending the next steps.
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