Tiny antennae that record how bees navigate may help perfect steering for ...

They are not just cute and stripy, but devastatingly efficient when it comes to locating the best pollen-rich flowers.

As a result, the humble bee is at the centre of a £4.8 million project to create drones and driverless cars.

In a unusual experiment, scientists painstakingly stuck tiny radar transponders to hundreds of bumblebees and honey bees, to track them as they flew.

Bees are famous in the animal world for their intelligence, even directing each other to delicious flowers using a 'waggle dance'. To harness their navigational skills, researchers used radar to track bees' precise flight path as they buzzed over farmland in Hertfordshire

Bees are famous in the animal world for their intelligence, even directing each other to delicious flowers using a 'waggle dance'. To harness their navigational skills, researchers used radar to track bees' precise flight path as they buzzed over farmland in Hertfordshire

Carefully avoiding painful stings, the researchers have also put bees in chambers, then watched how their brains works as they navigate.

The project, led by the University of Sheffield, means a bee brain is now available on a computer chip.

That chip has already been put into drones, which could be used to drop off packages in busy cities, avoiding obstacles as bees do when out foraging.

It is hoped the drones could be used routinely by companies within five years.

They are not just cute and stripy, but devastatingly efficient when it comes to locating the best pollen-rich flowers. As a result, the humble bee is at the centre of a £4.8 million project to create drones and driverless cars  [File photo]

They are not just cute and stripy, but devastatingly efficient when it comes to locating the best pollen-rich flowers. As a result, the humble bee is at the centre of a £4.8 million project to create drones and driverless cars  [File photo]

Professor James Marshall, who led the project from the University of Sheffield, and had created a spin-out bee tech firm called Opteran Technologies, said: 'It is pretty impressive that a bee can fly over five miles, then remember its way home, with a brain the size of a pinhead.

They do this with only a million brain cells, when humans have around 100 billion brain cells.

'So it makes sense to me that we should try and mimic a bee brain in drones and driverless cars.

'It is just more practical than trying to make these machines work like human brains.'

An important skill bees have is in judging 'optic flow', so that, like a human gazing out of a train window, they can gauge how close objects are by the fact that they appear to be moving faster than those farther away

An important skill bees have is in

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