Scientists develop radio-controlled cyborg beetle

One of the technology’s potential uses would be locating survivors in the rubble of collapsed buildings.

Credit: Tat Thang Vo Doan and Hirotaka Sato/NTU Singapore)
Credit: Tat Thang Vo Doan and Hirotaka Sato/NTU Singapore)

Researchers from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and the University of California (UC) Berkeley have successfully flown a live insect around a room using radio signals, electrodes and a tiny transmitter-receiver.

 “This technology could prove to be an improved alternative to remote-controlled drones as it could go into areas which are not accessible before,” said NTU’s assistant professor Hirotaka Sato.

The 6cm-long flower beetle can be equipped with a miniature microphone and thermal sensors, suggesting promising applications in emergency operations. The professor said one of the technology’s potential uses would be locating survivors in the rubble of collapsed buildings.

The sensors and receiver are contained in a “backpack” worn by the beetle and are mostly made from off-the-shelf parts costing  less than €6.50.

The equipment does not harm the beetle in any way.

 “Our long term vision is to show that we can remotely induce an insect to fly, control its turns when required, and then stop it when the insect reached a set location – all done repeatedly and reliably,” UC’s assistant professor Michel Maharbiz said.


 

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