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US army backs flying cyborg beetle project

Antony Savvas

The US army is backing a project that allows a flying giant flower beetle to be remote controlled for surveillance purposes.

The "cyborg" beetle has implanted electrodes and a radio receiver on its back so that it can be wirelessly controlled.

Scientists at the University of California have developed a tiny rig that receives control signals from a nearby computer. Electrical signals delivered via the beetle's electrodes command the insect to take off, turn left or right, or hover in midflight.

The research is funded by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). It is envisaged the beetle could one day be used for surveillance purposes or for search-and-rescue missions.

The beetle's payload consists of an off-the-shelf microprocessor, a radio receiver, a battery attached to a custom-printed circuit board, and six electrodes implanted into the animals' optic lobes and flight muscles.

To be used for search-and-rescue missions, the insect would also need to carry a small camera and heat sensor.


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