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Cyborgs & Biohacking

Neuroscientists control living dragonfly drones

The stimulus-response behavior of animals can be controlled – electronically and remotely in fact. And even in flying insects that weigh just 1g themselves.

08 Feb. 2017
Libelle Drohne Neurowissenschaftler
Neuroscientists control living dragonfly drones. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Scientists at the USA research company Draper have succeeded in turning dragonflies into living drones whose flight behavior can be manipulated. A tiny backpack made from electrical components makes the insects into cyborgs: at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute , Draper’s research partner, a process has been developed to make the nerve cells responsible for flight behavior in the dragonflies sensitive to light. Using tiny optical structures called optrodes, these nerve cells can be stimulated so that the flight of the insects can be accurately controlled. The surrounding neurons should remain uninfluenced by the impulses.

These remote-controlled dragonflies are in no way the first case of controlled animals. Science can already look back on successful attempts on cockroaches, moths, mice and pigeons, amongst others, since Sanjiv Talwar and John Chapin first made headlines with their robo-rats in 2002. The developers have named potential areas of application for the research results of the current "DragonflEye" project, such as the targeted – and unnoticed – transport of payloads or the controlled pollination of plants, although applications in medical diagnosis or therapy are also possible.