Micro drones in future could well be biological in origin, according to the researchers of the American company Draper. The company has developed a tiny backpack for dragonflies. With the electronics in the backpack dragonfly can be remotely controlled as if it were a drone. DragonflEye engineers declared that the project is quite relevant, and first units could be developed in next 12 months.
In order to control a dragonfly Draper works in collaboration with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to various genetic modifications. The idea is that the neurons that are typically responsible for the performance of the flight are made sensitive to light. By stimulating these neurons altered using so-called optrodes, the direction of dragonfly can be adjusted as desired.
The basic electronics in the backpack is foldable and is supplied with energy using a small solar cell. The backpack includes a navigation module, so that the cyborg dragonfly has pre-programmed route to follow. As a result, various applications are on the horizon, including the control of pollinating crops, explorations and, of course, espionage.
The team is close to developing ‘living’ dragonflies that are equipped with the backpack. The necessary electronics and optrodes are already finished, and are small enough to be applied to a model of the insect. Next year the team wants some dragonflies in a test environment to carry the backpack. The resultant data is then used to develop the software with which the insects could actually be controlled and navigated.
Eventually, Draper will also apply the DragonflEye technology to control other insects, including bees. Sounds like sci-fi ideas are coming to life soon.