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Satnews Daily
January 29th, 2009

Giant Cyborg Beetle (Not the Volkswagon) is Army's Latest UAV Experiment

Cyborg Beetle Strange and interesting: A giant flower beetle with implanted electrodes and a radio receiver on its back is controlled wirelessly as the result of scientists at the University of California who designed a device that receives control signals from a nearby computer. The beetle is directed to turn right, left, take off or hover from electrical signals. The research could eventually be used for surveillance or for search-and-rescue missions and is funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).Cyborg beetle: Shown here is a giant flower beetle carrying a microprocessor, radio receiver, and microbattery and implanted with several electrodes. To control the insect’s flight, scientists wirelessly deliver signals to the payload, which sends electrical signals through the electrode to the brain and flight muscles. Credit: Michel Maharbiz

The beetle's ensemble consists ofmicroprocessor, a radio receiver, and a battery attached to a custom-printed circuit board, along with six electrodes implanted into the animals' optic lobes and flight muscles. The flower beetle receives his/her flight orders from a wireless radio-frequency transmitter from a laptop. Oscillating electrical pulses trigger the flight of the beetle.

Instead of creating the systems, scientists went to the live source as beetles and other flying insects are adept at flying and are programmed to provide feedback from the visual system while exerting little effort. Previously moths have been used, but the beetles have more advantages, not the least of which is its size and weight, enabling it to carry heavier payloads, such as cameras used on a search-and-rescue mission.Michel Maharbiz and his colleagues have been working on projects such as this and previously implanted insects with electronic components as pupae. The results of his efforts were revealed at the IEEE MEMS in Italy, and is the first demonstration of its kind.