bisco industries Blog

How Giant Flower Beetles and Wireless Technology Can Save Lives

Remote Controlled Bugs Could be the Future of Difficult Search and Rescues

Engineers at UC Berkeley and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore have discovered the key to controlling the flight direction of giant flower beetles. Researchers at the universities worked together to create a small “backpack” that stimulates the beetle’s muscles to direct its flight path.  By attaching tiny computers and wireless radios onto the backs of giant flower beetles, scientists determined that a muscle once only known for controlling the folding of wings is also imperative for steering the beetle.  The ability to control the bugs’ flight path allows researchers to utilize the beetles as drones.

Research Details

The giant flower beetle (Mecynorrhina torquata) used in the study averages approximately 6 centimeters in length and about 8 grams in weight (equivalent to a one dollar coin). Since these beetles can typically carry at least 20% of their weight, the 1 to 1.5 gram backpack (about the weight of a paper clip) is not a problem for the beetle to carry. The tiny electronic backpacks are comprised of a 3.9 volt lithium battery, a wireless transmitter, and electrodes that connect to the beetle’s flight muscles and optic lobes. By stimulating the newly identified muscles with electrodes, researchers are able to control the beetle’s in-flight turns with great precision. In the study, signals were transmitted to the backpack at only 1000 Hz.

New developments in wireless technology have enabled researchers to better understand and fine-tune the control of the beetle’s muscles.  Previously, the beetles had to be tethered which made it difficult for researchers to determine whether the beetle’s movements were natural muscular movements or movements being made to compensate for the interfering tether. Wireless technology has allowed the researchers to observe the results of their muscle-controlling electrodes in free-flying beetles.

What It All Means

A primary purpose of this research is to create a new way of aiding in search and rescue missions that would be too dangerous or inaccessible to humans. The idea is to equip the bug’s backpacks with a small microphone and thermal sensors and send the beetles into situations such as a collapsed building where there may be survivors buried in the rubble.

Aiding future Research & Development

The research UC Berkeley and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) have done highlights the technological advances being made by universities around the globe. bisco industries frequently partners with local universities to help their engineers find the right components for demanding applications. Our knowledgeable reps have extensive experience and access to resources from hundreds of manufacturers. In addition, our partnerships with numerous manufacturers allows bisco to offer engineers the tiniest of electronic components (like those in the giant flower beetle’s backpack) as well as larger components and hardware used in flight controls. For more information on bisco industries’ catalog of electronic components or to contact a representative, visit biscoind.com.

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