Cyborg beetles – not science fiction!

Fancy being able to control the flying actions of real live beetles, like by using a remote control to instruct them to fly left or right or upwards and downwards? Sounds implausible? Not so. I recently came across this amazing piece of research led by Dr Hirotaka Sato, an assistant professor in our very own Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

In a collaborative effort with University of California Berkeley, researchers from NTU attached a tiny electronic “backpack” to the top of a giant flower beetle. The backpack comprises a wireless receiver and transmitter which converts radio signals into electrical signals transmitted to the beetle’s optic lobes and flight muscles. The signals are able to stimulate the beetle sufficiently to make it do the bidding of the person handling the remote control, meaning that if the button to “go right” is pressed, the beetle will obediently fly to the right, and so on. (jaw-drop moment reminding me of images of mind-controlled ants in the movie Antman) In the video below, a researcher remarks that although the beetle struggles, it will still obey the signals. Amazing…

Mind control of insects is not possible, but remote control of them is. RIP Ant-thony. (source of image from MCU Wikia)

The noble motivation for this research is to deploy such beetles in search-and-rescue missions, to locate survivors buried underneath piles of rubble of collapsed buildings.

Watch the video below to catch the real-life living and breathing “drone beetles” in action! I still have to do a double take to stare at them and ascertain that they are actual live creatures..




2 thoughts on “Cyborg beetles – not science fiction!

  1. That’s interesting and amazing!
    But I notice that at the beginning of the video the guy says “Nanjing Technological University” instead of “Nanyang Technological University” 😦


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