Mad Scientists Turned a Dragonfly Into a Cyborg Drone

first_img For years, science fiction has been giving us glimpses of a future where cybernetically-enhanced insects have become tiny secret agents… Like the roboroach from The Fifth Element. Those cyborg bug fantasies are now becoming a reality.You may even recall researchers at NC State using a Kinect to remotely guide a cockroach’s movements. Now, a team has created a cyborg dragonfly that can be flown like a drone. Biomedical engineer Jesse J. Wheeler said, “DragonflEye is a totally new kind of micro-aerial vehicle that’s smaller, lighter and stealthier than anything else that’s manmade.”It’s a little trickier to turn a flying insect into a cyborg than one that crawls (yes, cockroaches can fly… but the ones we’ve seen modded have lost that ability due to their gear). The weight of the electronics is a real concern, and having to keep the overall weight down raises another major concern. How do you keep those electronics powered?A clunky battery isn’t going to do the trick, so the DragonflEye team turned to tiny solar cells to supply the juice their system needs. In this close-up image, you can see the cell perched on top of the DragonflEye “backpack.”Perhaps the most amazing feature of DragonflEye is its steering system. The researchers genetically modified the dragonfly and inserted a pair of light-sensitive neurons in the insect’s nerve cord. The DragonflEye backpack converts signals from the operator into pulses of light which are piped to those neurons with sub-millimeter precision. Other nearby neurons aren’t affected by the signaling.Right now, DragonflEye only flies in a straight line, but steady progress on the steering system is being made. Once DragonflEye has been perfected, the Draper/Hughes team envisions moving on to other flying insects. One particular cool possibility: putting their backpack on bees to help reverse the tide of colony collapse!Image: Charles Stark Draper Laboratory Stay on target Review: ‘Daemon X Machina’ Has Big Robots, Small Fun on Nintendo SwitchThis Robot Is Equal Parts Lawnmower and Snow Blower last_img read more