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Insect Cyborg Development Delivering Promising Results

Miniature robots make good spies, but researchers are experimenting with insect cyborgs or “cybugs” that may function “undercover” even better. This fact comes on the wings of (forgive pun) scientists already being able to control via implanted devices, the flight of real moths.

Spy-ware is always interesting and appeals to the James Bond that lurks deep within the souls of all of us who love intrigue and challenges. The military and spy worlds would no doubt welcome cyborg drones that not only work without vacation pay or benefits, but could also function as that proverbial “fly on the wall” without being detected.

Tiny things with cameras are enough to excite any spy worth his or her salt (or any other spice for that matter). Being able to snoop undetected has its obvious rewards and developing these robots has proven to be a formidable challenge due to the type of energy source that is required. Such a source needs to be both low weight and high powered; two forces that don’t usually go together.

Researchers have taken inspiration from the enduring insect world, which comprises roughly 75 percent of all the animal species. It seems that little buggers have their own batteries, so to speak, which convert biological energy into flight every day. Researchers have patterned their robots after them; they can leap like a grasshopper or crawl like a cockroach along a wall.

Indeed, scientists patterning robots after insects is nothing new, but some of the technological procedures are. Originally, researchers glued machinery onto their backs (bugs, not researchers) but that didn’t work very well. Now the procedures are cool and high-tech; involving the surgical implantation of microchips directly into the insects as they grow.

The idea is to circuit their nerves and muscles so that they can be “steered” so to speak and optimize the insects themselves to generate electricity. The cost factor is in favor of this research, as even though these devices are costly to manufacture, they could be implanted with assembly-line routine. In the long run, they are still cheaper than what it would cost to build miniature robots from scratch.

Healing cyborgs (or cybugs) metamorphose from one developmental stage to the next and are immobile while in cocoons, promising a more reliable connection between the implanted devices and the insects than if they were actively wriggling about.

There has been some success with controlling the flight of moths in this arena. Researchers have successfully embedded Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) into developing insects and as adults these insects have emerged with the embedded system intact.

The next step is the most exciting of all, involving cybugs equipped with cameras, microphones and other sensors. They might then be able to spy on targets or sniff out explosives. Despite the danger inherent in such missions, it is possible that by attaching devices that feed them, the cyborgs might even live longer than normal insects.

Straight out of science fiction comes the startling possibility that eventually a swarm of cybugs could converge on targets by land, sea and air.

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  1. It was really interesting to read about developing these robots. They look amazing! I think that to create this creature is really hard and careful job. Thanks a lot for sharing this attractive entry and I will be waiting for other great ones from you in the future.

  2. I m vey glad to have read this article. It has helped me gain a great deal of knowledge on this subject. I would love to read more of your articles