North Carolina professor creates drone pollinator to help crops

EDGECOMBE COUNTY, North Carolina -- Honey bees are on the decline and that could be a disaster for vegetables and flowers, but an area professor is hoping to change that with his new invention.

An IT professor in North Carolina has created a drone that can pollinate like a bee.

It moves like a bee and buzzes like a bee, but how can it help?

Thomas Parrish, who has been building drones for over 15 years, hopes his Poli-X1 will keep our crops safe after the USDA found the honey bee population dropped by 8 percent from 2015 to 2016.

Parrish said this is his third prototype, but the idea wasn't originally his.

"My youngest son came up with the idea," said Parrish with OpenRobtics Labs. "'Dad you build drones. We're losing bees. Can you build a drone to help our bees?'"

One of the biggest challenges Parrish faced while developing the Poli-X1 was to make sure it didn't lurch forward in flight like a regular drone does.

While the flight mechanics have taken off, Parrish is working like a busy bee. Within the next two years, he plans to have the drones fly on autopilot, recognize edible crop flowers via a front end camera, use a sensor to know when they've pollinated a flower, and recharge automatically using solar power.

"You would just basically open up the box, they fly out and they would pollinate drop the flowering season and come back home for the next flowering season."

Officials said the drone won't just help the bees but also youth.

"It would help the technology and skills of our youth to learn how to pollinate their own vegetables and so it would be a win-win for the bees and for us," said Founder of the Conetoe Family Center Richard Joyner.
Copyright © 2022 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.