Researchers hope to use bugged bugs for search and rescue

Dec 29, 2011 by Deborah Braconnier report
Image: DARPA

(PhysOrg.com) -- While search and rescue dogs are currently used to help locate survivors of earthquakes or other disasters, new research hopes to make this job easier by turning to bugs. Insects have the ability to get into the smallest of places and could make locating people that much easier.

The research project, titled the Hybrid Insect Micro-Electromechanical Systems program, is funded by the U.S. , or and the technology is being designed by a team of computer and from the University of Michigan.

Image: DARPA

Led by Professor Khalil Najafi, the new technology is designed to use the insect’s kinetic energy to power things such as miniature cameras and microphones that can be mounted on their backs. These insects can then be released into building or rubble that is deemed to be too dangerous for humans and help locate possible survivors.

The research team has already created a device that is able to harness the energy created by the wing movement of the Green June beetle. The idea now is to place a miniature generator on each of the beetle’s wings to create enough power to run miniature location devices such as camera and microphones.

These tiny insects could also be used by the military as well as by facilities such as the Fukushima nuclear power plant. They would be able to go into virtually any place where it is too dangerous for humans.

The research team is hoping to be able to conduct the first insect test flights at some point next year. They are pursuing patents for their technology and hoping to secure additional investors to aid in the pursuit of this project.

If successful, these bugged bugs could make a big difference in locating survivors of many natural disasters worldwide.

Explore further: Touch-responsive 3-D maps provide independence to the visually impaired

Related Stories

Roving robot to the rescue

Jul 07, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Northeastern University student-researchers have created a roving robot named WiLU that may be able to locate and rescue victims of natural disasters or participate in military missions that ...

Secrets of insect flight revealed

Sep 17, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers are one step closer to creating a micro-aircraft that flies with the manoeuvrability and energy efficiency of an insect after decoding the aerodynamic secrets of insect flight.

Ladybirds - wolves in sheep's clothing

Jun 24, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- CSIRO research has revealed that the tremendous diversity of ladybird beetle species is linked to their ability to produce larvae which, with impunity, poach members of 'herds' of tiny, soft-bodied ...

Recommended for you

Gecko inspired pads allow researchers to climb glass wall

Nov 19, 2014

A team of researchers working at Stanford University has used prior research involving the means by which gecko's climb walls to create pads that allow a human to do very nearly the same thing. In their paper ...

User comments : 7

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Isaacsname
3 / 5 (2) Dec 29, 2011
" is funded by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency "

" They are ~~~ hoping to secure additional investors "

Darpa pinching pennies these days ?

GDM
5 / 5 (3) Dec 29, 2011
"pinching pennies"? If so, that's probably a good thing. If it's a good idea, the money will come in.
LowIQ
4.5 / 5 (2) Dec 29, 2011
How much spare capacity do these insects have to power the electronics ?

Will driving the HW cause them to exhaust themselves physically before they are able to do any useful work ?

Hold a pair of 1 pound weights in your hands at arms length and flap your arms a thousand times - you'll see what I mean.

Also there's the issue of guidance - unless you can direct them to regions of interest it all seems pretty pointless. And if you can guide them, by wiring into their neuro-circuitry then it opens up a whole ethical can of worms (I know they're 'only' insects - but where will it stop).
Telekinetic
1 / 5 (3) Dec 29, 2011
Does the A.S.P.C.A. know about this? I remember a Mexican kid with a beetle tied to a thread who flew it like a tethered plane around his head. I remember the revulsion I felt when he stomped on it after he became bored. Could this be the work of the same kid?
Bob_Kob
5 / 5 (3) Dec 30, 2011
Man these guys have been watching the 5th element too many times..
_nigmatic10
4.3 / 5 (4) Dec 31, 2011
Go G-force!

Seriously though, the risk of a thousand $$ plus bug on a bug becoming a windshield decoration on a passing car or a fly swatter decal or a birds lunch makes it seems pointless.
GDM
not rated yet Jan 02, 2012
As the article said, they haven't yet been able to supply enough power for cameras and microphones, and I suspect they are a long way from being able to influence their flight paths. The electronics can be VERY small, and therefore very light weight, even for a bug. But if we can't control where they go, or capture them after releasing them in say, Fukushima, I'm going to need a more powerful can of Raid, maybe something with lead shielding. Good luck to them, though.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.