Hacking mother nature: scientists are turning moths into drones

Nate Swanner - Aug 20, 2014
Hacking mother nature: scientists are turning moths into drones

Scientists are working on a method for controlling moths electronically. Yeah — moths. By attaching electrodes to the back of a moth, scientists hope to control its flight. Though the immediate use-case that comes to mind might be “trolling cats”, it seems there is much more sound reasoning for wanting an army of moth drones.

Dr. Alper Bozkurt, Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at NC State helped write the study. “In the big picture, we want to know whether we can control the movement of moths for use in applications such as search and rescue operations”, said Bozkurt. “The idea would be to attach sensors to moths in order to create a flexible, aerial sensor network that can identify survivors or public health hazards in the wake of a disaster.”

The paper mentions attaching these electrodes to the moths in the pupal stage, when it lies dormant in turning from caterpillar to flying moth. The first part of the study involves — well, studying moths. The electrodes would discover which muscles are used for various types of flights, and report on which electromyographic signal the moths emit to control which muscles.

Bozkurt says “By watching how the moth uses its wings to steer while in flight, and matching those movements with their corresponding electromyographic signals, we’re getting a much better understanding of how moths maneuver through the air”.

The team of scientists working on the moth drones are currently in the early stages, where they’re doing little more than recording data and observing moths. The end result could be fascinating and profound, but it’s also mildly frightening.

Via: NC State

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