If you liked Ahnald in the Terminator movies, you’re going to love this one. Cyborgs. Cyborg beetles, that is. Today, on Engineering Works!
When you saw the Terminator movies or Star Trek, you know that mixing up computers and humans is standard stuff in science fiction. But now, engineers are doing the next best thing. Computers and insects. Beetles.
They’re putting electrodes into the nervous systems of immature beetles. When the beetles grow up, they add a tiny battery and a computer microcontroller. The whole assembly can be connected to a laptop computer through a wireless link. And they’re ready to go.
Flying a beetle is pretty straightforward. A joystick attached to the computer can send an electric current into any of the electrodes. If the operator, pilot?, wants the beetle to fly to the right, an electric pulse to the left-side electrode gets the muscles on that side working a little harder and the beetle makes a right turn. You get the idea.
The Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, is paying for the research. It’s not clear exactly what the Pentagon wants radio-controlled beetles for, but we can make some guesses. They’re also looking into flies, moths and dragonflies. Other researchers say the cyborg beetles are a good way to learn more about the dynamics of flight.
The beetle we’re watching is getting ready to head out the door, so we better be close behind. See you next time.
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