Despite their tiny brains, bees have remarkable navigation capabilities based on their vision.

Now, scientists have recreated a light-weight imaging system mimicking a honeybee’s field of view, which they claim could change the way robots and small flying vehicles are built.

A team at Bielefeld University in Germany has built an artificial bee eye, complete with fully functional camera, to shed light on the insects’ complex sensing, processing and navigational skills.

Consisting of a light-weight mirror-lens combination attached to a USB video camera, the artificial eye manages to achieve a field of vision comparable to that of a bee, the Bioinspiration & Biomimetics reported.

In combining a curved reflective surface that is built into acrylic glass with lenses covering the frontal field, the bee eye camera allowed the scientists to take unique images showing the world from an insect’s viewpoint.

In the future, they hope to include UV to fully reflect a bee’s colour vision, which is important to honeybees for flower recognition and discrimination and polarisation vision, which bees use for orientation. They also hope to incorporate models of the subsequent neural processing stages.

“Despite the discussed limitations of our model of the spatial resolution of the honeybees compound eyes, we are confident that it is useful for many purposes, eg., for the simulation of bee-like agents in virtual environments and, in combination with presented imaging system, for testing bee-inspired visual navigation strategies on mobile robots,” the researchers said.