Experimental verification on steering flight of honeybee by electrical stimulation
A research paper by scientists at the Beijing Institute of Technology verified the steering control effect in a honeybee by applying electrical stimulation on the unilateral optic lobe.
The new research paper, published on July 21 in the journal Cyborg and Bionic Systems, validated the effectiveness of unilateral optic lobe electrical stimulation for steering locomotion control of honeybees, and explored the motion control parameters with the highest successful rate.
As an emerging field, the cyborg insect encompasses an insect carrier and manual control modules, and realizes the dynamic pre-setting of its behavior by disturbing the insects' motion through the manual control module. Compared to micro-aircraft, cyborg insects exhibit exceptional superiority in high stealth appearance, adaption in unstructured environments, low power consumption, and affluent sensing systems, due to inheriting the biological appearance, athletic ability, and sensory organs of the insects. "Except for the applicability in military reconnaissance, cyborg insects have incomparable application potential in biodiversity protection," said study author Jieliang Zhao, a professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology.
"A highly efficient and reliable locomotion control strategy is a prerequisite for cyborg insects to complete the preset assignments," explained study authors.
According to the sites for stimulation, the existing flight control strategy for insects are classified as flight muscle stimulation, sensory organ stimulation, and neuron stimulation. "The technique of neural electrical stimulation has the advantage of low power consumption, is the mainstream locomotion control strategy for insects with asynchronous flight muscles represented by honeybees. However, the effect of neural electrical stimulation on the control of honeybee steering behavior has not been fully verified," said Zhao.
The newly published research optimized the pulse electrical signal parameters for steering flight control of honeybees based on unilateral optic lobe electrical stimulation. Furthermore, the authors verified the effectiveness of induced steering action by visualizing the rotational torque through a magnetic levitation experimental system. The electrical stimulation on the unilateral optic lobe was confirmed to be competent for steering control of the honeybees in various locomotion states.
The study authors explored the effective response behaviors of the honeybee under electrical stimulation, as well as the influence of the duty cycle and frequency of the electrical signal on the successful rate of steering response. Through the optimization, the authors achieved an average success rate of 87% for steering control of honeybees in immobilized status. The authors further confirmed that unilateral optic lobe electrical stimulation was effective in controlling the steering behavior of honeybees in a crawling state, with a success rate of 50%.
Looking forward, the team will try to improve the success rate of honeybee locomotion control, and achieve the precise regulation of different locomotion parameters. "Another major challenge facing the development of cyborg honeybee is the confined load capacity, which limits the size and weight of the artificial stimulation module," said the study authors. Therefore, the authors will devote themselves to developing the wireless locomotion regulation module that is more in line with the honeybee load characteristics.
"Small insects represented by honeybees are more ideal cyborg insect carriers," said Zhao, explaining that honeybees possess higher concealment and athletic ability than those of large insects. "Actually, honeybees can reach a flight speed of 20–40 km/h, equivalent to the speed of a bus. As the carrier of cyborg insects, honeybees can better meet the requirement of military reconnaissance," said Zhao. His research paper has confirmed the promising applicability of electrical stimulation applied to the unilateral optic lobe for steering control, and offers some reliable control parameters for an artificial flight regulation of honeybee, thus promoting the research of cyborg honeybee control strategy.
The paper, "Experimental Verification on Steering Flight of Honeybee by Electrical Stimulation," was published in the journal Cyborg and Bionic Systems on July 21, 2022.