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Free-Flying Cyborg Insects Steered From a Distance

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UC Berkeley cyborg insect

Electrodes implanted into the brain and muscles of an African beetle allow UC Berkeley engineers to control its movement from afar.

Credit: UC Berkeley

Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley, have connected electrodes and radio antennas to the nervous systems of beetles and then were able to control their movements from afar. The team implanted electrodes into the brain and muscles of an African species that grows to about the size of a human palm and is strong enough to fly freely under radio control. The researchers sent a series of electrical pulses to the brain to make the beetle take off, and a single pulse to make it land. They also stimulated the wing muscle of the beetles to steer them in a certain direction. The Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is funding the project to build fully remote-controlled insects, which could potentially be used to look for survivors after a disaster or as a tool for espionage.

The level of control achieved in the project was surprising because the controlling impulses were delivered to comparatively large regions of the insect's brain, says University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill biomechanist Tyson Hedrick.

"I'm skeptical about their ability to do surveillance for the following reason: No one has solved the power issue," says University of Utah, Salt Lake City professor Reid Harrison.

From New Scientist
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Abstracts Copyright © 2009 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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