Credit-card sized radar allows for autonomous and non-invasive honeybee hive monitoring

Nawaf Aldabashi with his radar pointed at a hive in the background

On 6th of June 2021, Bangor University’s KESS 2 PhD student Nawaf Aldabashi presented his innovative honeybee monitoring radar device at the IEEE International Microwave Symposium, hosted virtually from Atlanta in the US. The event was a hybrid of both online and in-person attendance and Nawaf was given the opportunity to remotely demonstrate the design and development of a highly sensitive portable radar system which is used to track bees.

The radar system, made portable due to being roughly the size of a credit-card, is capable of monitoring a wide range of targets, including insects. As part of Nawaf’s research, the radar was deployed specifically for the monitoring and evaluation of honeybee and bumblebee hive activity levels. Supervised by BU academics Dr Cristiano Palego and Dr Paul Cross, this KESS 2 funded research project uses the radar system to deliver a better understanding of bee behaviour and their interaction with their environments.

The radar, when placed in front of a hive, demonstrated its capability to identify bee movements. This provided means of identifying incoming, outgoing and hovering bees. The radar was further used to identify the micro-Doppler signatures of bees, which in turn allows the detection of individual wingbeat frequencies. Further tests showed that the radar is also capable of identifying different insect wingbeats, which means it can be used as a device to classify other flying insect species.

Dr. Cristiano Palego said,

“This has been a fascinating research endeavour on a number of levels. It has provided us with a powerful and low-cost tool to monitor pollinator status and behaviour that was not thought to be possible only two years back. It has also empowered a partnership of research and industry to take on technological and sustainability challenges while creating opportunities for innovation, business and education all at once.”

Nawaf’s project partners with S&A produce, one of the largest soft fruit growers in Europe known for their implementation of bumblebee-based biological pollination.

Edward Palmer, the technical director of S&A produce said,

“As a team, we have worked hard to employ novel ideas to develop robust technology, that importantly, does not impede the bees natural behaviour and allows us to now monitor them accurately in real time.  This has furthered our understanding of how these important pollinators interact with our crops and how we can better support them.  We have challenged boundaries and conventional thought further, by developing technology that is bee-friendly.

I am also excited by our team’s development from what was initially an idea I presented for the concept of nanoparticle assisted radar monitoring four years ago, to working prototypes.  It is another significant step forward in our journey of technological advancements together, that will support bee and biological pollination services for growers globally as well as being transferable across many other industries we have identified.  Working with the Bangor team over the last few years has been exciting, because like us they are grounded in practical reality, but are not limited in creativity to help solve our challenges”.

Dr. Paul Cross shared his opinion about the project and the group’s overall achievements by saying,

“The research carried out at Bangor under the KESS 2 programme has been a journey of scientific discovery. From the initial Tabula rasa, we have developed a functioning light-weight, battery-less tag for tracking honey and bumblebees; we can predict with ~95% accuracy what a bumblebee will do when leaving the nest (foraging for resources or exploration); determine trajectories of incoming and outgoing bees using the Doppler effect and monitor individual bees within the hive/colony using thermal tracking and fancy algorithms.

All of the above are accompanied with innovative electronic and radio frequency engineering, radar design and AI learning, permitting near real time tracking for relatively low financial cost. We have innovated and pushed the frontiers of the discipline towards the 22nd Century.”

Nawaf added,

“I have been fortunate to work alongside brilliant people that enabled me to design and develop the radar. It was a privilege to attend the Virtual IEEE IMS Conference which was a great experience that gave me the opportunity to share our research and demonstrate our findings with researchers from a wide range of disciplines.”

Nawaf’s IEEE presentation can be viewed here:


Integration of 5.8GHz Doppler Radar and Machine Learning for Automated Honeybee Hive Surveillance and Logging – Nawaf AldabashiSam WilliamsAmira EltokhyEdward PalmerPaul CrossCristiano Palego

A Printed Circuit Board Continuous Wave Doppler Radar for Machine Learning-Enhanced Biometrics – Nawaf Aldabashi; Cristiano Palego; Samuel M. Williams; Paul Cross