Attention Deficit Disorder Prosthetic Memory Program

Remote Control Beetles

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Remote Control Beetles - © Attention Deficit Disorder Prosthetic Memory Program

In 2009, remote control of the flight movements of the Cotinus texana and the much larger Mecynorrhina torquata beetles has been achieved during experiments funded by the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The weight of the electronics and battery meant that only Mecynorrhina was strong enough to fly freely under radio control. A specific series of pulses sent to the optic lobes of the insect encouraged it to take flight.

The average length of flights was just 45 seconds, although one lasted for more than 30 minutes. A single pulse caused the beetle to land again. Stimulation of basilar flight muscles allowed the controller to direct the insect left or right, although this was successful on only 75% of stimulations. After each maneuver, the beetles quickly righted themselves and continued flying parallel to the ground. In 2015, researchers was able to fine tune the beetle steering in flight by changing the pulse train applied on the wing-folding muscle. Recently, scientists from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, have demonstrated graded turning and backward walking in a small darkling beetle (Zophobas morio), which is 2 cm to 2.5 cm long and weight only 1 g including the electronic backpack and battery.

It has been suggested the beetles could be used for search and rescue mission, however, it has been noted that currently available batteries, solar cells and piezoelectrics that harvest energy from movement cannot provide enough power to run the electrodes and radio transmitters for very long.

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