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NASA Is Funding a Swarm of Bee-Like Drones to Explore Mars

Today in “headlines we can’t believe we’re writing,” we give you this new report that NASA has granted exploratory funding to a team of Japanese-American engineers working to build and launch a fleet of bee-like drones to explore Mars. The team is calling the concept “Marsbees.” Nice.

The project is part of NASA’s “Innovative Advanced Concepts” program, which supports a new handful of space exploration ideas each year. The thinking behind Marsbees is that the drone swarm will be able to explore the surface of the Red Planet in conjunction with a rover, which will serve as a mobile beehive. The bees will return to the hive to recharge, download the information they gather, and send that information to Earth.

The Marsbees (man, what a weird word to keep typing) are described as “robotic flapping wing flyers of a bumblebee size with cicada-sized wings.” Cicada wings, if you’re not familiar, are much bigger than bumblebee wings, and that size differential is to account for the lower density of the Martian atmosphere. In other words, these bees will need a little more oomph to stay aloft than their Earthbound counterparts.

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