UC Berkeley Succeeds in Radio Controlling Live Beetle for Military Purposes? Cyborgs?

January 29, 2009 / 1 Comment

The University of California, Berkeley has succeeded in controlling a live rhinoceros beetle by radio. The video of the feat was disclosed at the MEMS 2009 academic conference in Sorrento, Italy.

Researchers controlled the movement of beetle wings and some other parts using radio signals sent to six electrodes on the beetle’s brain and muscles.  The beetle was equipped “with a module incorporating a circuit to send signals to the electrodes, wireless circuit, microcontroller and battery.”

robot beetle UC Berkeley Succeeds in Radio Controlling Live Beetle for Military Purposes? Cyborgs?

UC Berkeley has controlled several insects electronically but has yet to come up with a way to get kids to come to class regularly. Hmmm……

A rhinoceros beetles can carry a weight of up to 3g and fly carrying the module which weighs about 1.3g on their backs. Among other reasons, the researchers say the beetle “looks cool.”

But why? – For military surveillance?

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) of the US funds the research making the experiment something intended for military purposes.

The university says that the technology can be utilized for peaceful purposes as well.  Haven’t we heard this kind of argument before?

Radio-controlled beetles can be useful in places that are too narrow or dangerous for a human to enter.  That makes sense. But what’s a beetle going to do there? Pirates used to send their parrots in to undesirable places, too.

Rhinoceros beetles can work as surveillance robots in place of humans.

However, the ultimate goal says the university is to make the most of the insects’ own sensors while using their energy system as batteries.

Next giant step – Cyborgs!

Definitely some ethical issues going on here, eh?

The flight experiment