Are you familiar with the words “biobot” or “cyborg”?
It may sound like a nightmare but it’s not. Imagine giant bugs, in this case big African flower beetles (Mecynorrhina Torquata in latin), and imagine controlling them remotely. Males can grow up to 85 mm and females to 60 mm. It was the size of these beetles that enabled scientists to transform them into giant flying “cyborgs” – sometimes called “insect robots – biobots”.
Several labs all around the world are trying to find out a way to control those “biobots” and lead them where needed – usually in disaster zones or places inaccessible for regular electronic drones. Engineers from Nynyang Technological University in Singapur together with University of California in Berkley took a step into the unknown and began paying attention to insect control. With the use of microchips connected to the beetles with organic beeswax, the scientists are capable of wireless guidance of the beetle’s flight paths meanwhile miniature sensors are scanning the temperature, height, moisture or position (via GPS).
The giant flower beetle was chosen because it’s capable of carrying relatively heavy devices like sensors or special microchips. Unlike regularly controllable drones, there’s no need to check on “biobots” during their flight because these beetles are capable of staying stable even with an additional burden. The human intervention is necessary only if the course needs to be changed. There’s been a lot of successful attempts with “cyborgs”, as scientists call them, especially indoor where the situation was easier to control.
All the electronics implemented on flower beetles cost like 5 pounds. That is very different from ordinary drones. The whole set that is installed on “biobots” is powered by a 3,9 V lithium micro-battery. The scientists are now focusing especially on collecting neuromuscular data right from the muscles of beetles which will help to refine the controlling even more. According to scientists, we will use “biobots” in other fields as well, sooner or later.