Creepy but true: researchers at the University of California, Berkley, have managed to create a live remote-control beetle. Using six electrodes hooked up to the beetle’s brain and muscles, and a 1.3g radio module carried on the bug’s back, the flying rhinoceros beetle can be remotely-controlled from a nearby laptop. While the researchers have managed to electrically-control insects before, this is the first time it has been done wirelessly.
The rhinoceros beetle was selected because of its weight-carrying abilities – it can fly with up to 3g of cargo attached – but also because “they look cool”, apparently. Future incarnations of the research, which is sponsored by the US military agency DARPA, will see sensors mounted on the bugs, such as a camera, making them suitable for covert investigations and search & rescue missions in areas too small or dangerous for humans.
However the researchers also plan to investigate using the beetle’s own natural sensors – for instance its eyes – and its digestive system to replace artificial sensors and batteries. That would reduce the amount of payload to carry, and potentially increase the amount of time the drone could be used. Apparently the location of the electrodes need be relatively imprecise, compared to tapping into the brain of more advanced animals, and as such creating more remote-control bugs can be done surprisingly quickly.