Remote controlled bugs buzz off
By Patrick Jackson
One of the cyborg beetles
Three varieties of beetles have been used in the project
A Pentagon-sponsored project to control flying insects remotely has sent ripples of excitement across the scientific pond.
Part insect, part machine, the "cyborg beetle" has been tested successfully by its developers at the University of California, Berkeley.
Video footage shows a beetle being "flown" around a room by a man using a laptop.
At one point it is tethered to a transparent plastic plate, and its tiny limbs can be seen twitching in response to the operator's joy stick.
The developers, Michel Maharbiz and Hirotaka Sato, "demonstrated the remote control of insects in free flight via an implantable radio-equipped miniature neural stimulating system", they told the current edition of Frontiers in Neuroscience magazine.
Noel Sharkey, professor of robotics and artificial intelligence at the UK's Sheffield University, says that while attempts to control insects such as Co*kroaches are not new, this is the first time man has managed to remotely control a flying insect.
What intrigues him is the Berkeley project's ultimate military application.
At Berkeley, electrodes are implanted when the beetle is in the pupal stage of its growth.