Researchers hope to use bugged bugs for search and rescue

Researchers hope to use bugged bugs for search and rescue
Image: DARPA
( -- 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.

Researchers hope to use bugged bugs for search and rescue
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.

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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 ?

Dec 29, 2011
"pinching pennies"? If so, that's probably a good thing. If it's a good idea, the money will come in.

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).

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?

Dec 30, 2011
Man these guys have been watching the 5th element too many times..

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.

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.

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