Could cyborg dragonflies become US spies?

By |  May 9, 2017

Research and development company Draper and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) at Janelia Research Campus have successfully developed dragonfly cyborg drones, according to Fox News. The DragonflEye project could potentially allow the U.S. military and intelligence services to spy using the micro-drones.

Many robotic projects attempt to emulate movements and characteristics of insects. This project focuses on dragonflies due to the capabilities of their four wings, which includes hovering, rapid changes in direction, darting capabilities and the ability to fly in reverse.

Dragonflies also are found on every continent except Antarctica, which makes them a good candidate for international spying, Fox News says.

Each drone is designed with a tiny “backpack,” which includes a guidance system with miniaturized, advanced navigation, energy harvesting and optical stimulation technology.

Draper also placed neurons inside the dragonfly’s nerve cord so commands can be sent from the backpack. The cyborg’s are actually steered from light.

“HHMI conducted research into the ‘steering’ neurons that control flight in the dragonfly’s nervous system,” Fox News says. “By using synthetic biology and inserting genes similar to those in eyes, the team was able to make these ‘steering’ neurons sensitive to light.”

Draper is developing something called optrodes that activate these neurons with pulses of light. The light is sent from the dragonfly’s backpack and channeled into the nerve cord.”

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About the Author:

Joelle Harms is the digital media manager for PMP magazine and its parent company, North Coast Media. Harms can be reached at jharms@northcoastmedia.net or 216-706-3780.

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