Sunday 3 April 2016

Giant remote-controlled cyborg beetles could replace drones

For the first time scientists have shown it is possible to control insects, making them walk and even fly on demand

By Sarah Knapton, Science Editor
2:54PM BST 30 Mar 2016

It might sound the stuff of nightmares, but giant cyborg beetles could soon be winging their way to a town near you, after scientists proved they can wire up insects and control them remotely.

Several labs across the world are trying to design robot insect swarms because the creatures are good at getting into nooks and crannies so could quickly locate earthquake survivors in piles of rubble, carry out surveillance or eavesdrop on criminals or terrorists.

But engineers at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and the University of California Berkley have gone one step further. Instead of creating robots that move like insects they have shown it is possible to control the actual insects themselves.

Using electrodes and tiny electronic backpacks the team have shown it is possible to develop a living machine whose flight and walking gait can be wirelessly controlled. The ‘biobots’ could even replace drones as they would be far more agile and need no engineering to keep them in the air.

Writing in the journal Royal Society Inferface the authors said: "Unlike man-made legged robots for which lots of tiny parts, sensors and actuators are manufactured, assembled and integrated, the insect–computer hybrid robots directly use living insects as nature’s ready-made robot platforms."

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