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Roboroyale: Award-Winning Innovation of METU

The important influence of honey bees on ecological balance and human sustenance cannot be overstated. A significant number of scientists believe it would be a global disaster if honeybees were to become extinct. Their role as pollinators is fundamental, as they facilitate the reproduction of wildflowers and trees, thereby supporting diverse ecosystems. This intricate web extends to other organisms because pollinated plants provide habitat and sustenance for insects, birds, bats, and mammals. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), honey bees pollinate 71 out of 100 crop species that contribute to 90% of the world's food supply. Therefore, if bees stopped pollinating, the population would face a major food shortage.

Furthermore, honey bees hold a unique status as the sole insect species responsible for producing food directly consumed by humans. Their contribution to the economy through honey production is essential, with millions of dollars made annually. Unfortunately, the global honey bee population has been dwindling, exacerbating existing food shortages worldwide. The mentioned issue emphasizes the urgent requirement for solutions to tackle the challenges against honey bee populations, ensuring the preservation of the indispensable natural and economic benefits they offer.

Distinguished researchers, Dr. Şahin, Dr. Hande Alemdar, and Dr. Ali Emre Turgut, affiliated with the Middle East Technical University (METU), have embarked on a

comprehensive endeavor to tackle this critical issue. Dr. Şahin notes that the project was initiated two years ago by Durham University in cooperation with an international consortium, including a 20-person research and development team across the METU Robotic and Artificial Intelligence Research and Application Center, Czech Technical University, and Graz University, with distinct tasks assigned to each nation. Entitled "Roboroyale," this project is backed by the EU Horizon project, the European Union's foremost funding initiative dedicated to research and innovation, boasting a budget of 95.5 billion euros.

At the 2024 World Governments Summit (WGS), hosted in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Roboroyale was designated as one of the top two global innovation projects. From a pool of 13 projects, METU received an award for this notable accomplishment in a competition administered by the Edge of Government

platform under the WGS.

Roboroyale aims to lead a pioneering iteration of

beehives integrating cutting-edge technology, utilizing robots and artificial intelligence. Dr. Şahin elaborates on their collaborative efforts with engineers and biologists to develop robotic bees that will monitor the nourishment and well-being of queen bees, thereby enhancing their reproductive capacity. They have already made progress in the development of micro-robot bees capable of imitating the functions of worker bees, facilitating queen bee care without impediment. Currently, tracking methodologies rely on camera surveillance and barcode identification, with future prospects aimed at eliminating the need for barcodes.

In the upcoming years, Dr. Şahin expects these artificial bees to deal with cleaning, nourishment, and maintenance in the hive to achieve the goal of maintaining hive health. Dr. Şahin highlights the ecological significance of strengthening worker bee populations, fostering heightened levels of pollination essential for fruit production and subsequent seed propagation. Hence, prioritizing bee protection results in environmental balance, as no artificial mechanism currently matches their pollination effectiveness. Dr. Şahin also emphasizes the importance of ensuring the queen bee's safety and health, even in harsh conditions, as their demise could precipitate colony collapse within months.

The project's developers anticipate commencing production of these next-generation beehives in 2026. Additionally, certain researchers involved in the project, like Drs. Şahin and Hande Alemdar, are leading another initiative called "Hive 4.0." Supported by TÜBİTAK, this project aims to develop automated systems for analyzing bee interactions outside of hive boundaries using advanced artificial intelligence techniques.

In conclusion, the decline of the honey bee population poses a serious threat to the environment and food security, which Roboroyale and further similar projects show great potential for resolving. It is important to continue supporting new technologies and innovations to protect honey bees and other essential pollinators that humanity requires to survive.

Works Cited

Aydınlık. “ODTÜ’lü Araştırmacılar Robot Arı Kovanları Geliştiriyor.” Aydınlık, 1 Aug. 2022.

Jacobo, Julia. “Nearly 40% Decline in Honey Bee Population Last Winter ‘Unsustainable,’ Experts Say.” ABC News, 9 July 2019.

Kasap, Selma. “ODTÜ’nün "Robot Arıları"Na Küresel Inovasyon Ödülü.”, 16 Feb. 2024.


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