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Robotic insects developed for search-locate missions

Computer controlled or robotic insects are not new, however recent advances are more sophisticated that anything that has gone on before. Back in 2012, Digital Journal ran a feature looking at how remote-controlled cockroaches were being developed by North Carolina State University. The plan was to use the robotic devices, fitted to live cockroaches, to seek out earthquake victims buried in debris. This didn’t exactly take off.

In 2013, we also ran a feature about a more controversial ‘home kit’ called RoboRoach, a behavior-controlling cockroach backpack run by a Kickstarter-funded company. This can be purchased by schools or at home, where a device is fitted to a cockroach allowing the user to control the insect’s movements.

In a new development, scientists based at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and the University of California Berkley, are designing electrical devices to control insects, powered by a 3.9 volt micro lithium battery. The devices consist of micro-electrodes and tiny electronic backpacks. This allows the flight and walking movement of a variety of insects to be wirelessly controlled.

One plan for these ‘biobots’ is to replace drones, for some applications, because the insects would be far more agile and require no additional engineering mechanics to keep them in the air. The insects can carry payloads including a small microphone and thermal sensor. Lead researcher, Assistant Professor Hirotaka Sato, told The Daily Telegraph: “By sending a signal to the beetle, we are able to simply change its direction of movement and the beetle will manage the rest.”

The research into the hybrid-insects has been published in the journal Royal Society Inferface. The paper ism titled “Insect–computer hybrid legged robot with user-adjustable speed, step length and walking gait.”

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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