Military Robotics

DARPA Wants Army of Cyborg Insects

Posted 15 Mar 2006 at 21:03 UTC by steve Share This

Kim Goossens sent us a link to a BBC Story about DARPA's latest solicitation for mass-produced cyborg insects. The idea is to insert MEMS hardware into the pupa of a maturing caterpillar. As the pupa grows, the MEMS devices form a bio-electric interface allowing the cyborg butterfly to be flown by remote control or guided by built-in GPS sensors. The cyborg mini-UAVs will be loaded with MEMS surveillance gear such as gas sensors, microphones, and video cameras. DARPA hopes to "enable assembly-line like fabrication of hybrid insect-MEMS interfaces". One entomology expert called the plan ludicrous and noted that a previous DARPA plan to use bees and wasps to locate explosives failed because of the insect's instinctive behaviors for feeding and mating. Officially, DARPA is calling this project Hybrid Insect MEMS (HI-MEMS). The more detailed HI-MEMS proposal pamphlet (warning, MS DOC format) adds that while DARPA has a higher interest in turning flying insects into cyborgs, they might accept "swimming or hopping" insects if they meet the project goals of deliving a cyborg insect to within 5 meters of a target 100 meters away using remote control or GPS.

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