In one approach, researchers funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are inserting computer chips into moth pupae – the intermediate stage between a caterpillar and a flying adult – and hatching them into healthy “cyborg moths.”
The Hybrid Insect Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems project aims to create literal shutterbugs – camera-toting insects whose nerves have grown into their internal silicon chip so that wranglers can control their activities. DARPA researchers are also raising cyborg beetles with power for various instruments to be generated by their muscles.
In July, however, a Harvard University team got a truly fly-like robot airborne, its synthetic wings buzzing at 120 beats per second.
“It showed that we can manufacture the articulated, high-speed structures that you need to re-create the complex wing motions that insects produce,” said team leader Robert Wood.
The fly’s vanishingly thin materials were machined with lasers, then folded into three-dimensional form “like a micro-origami,” he said. Alternating electric fields make the wings flap. The whole thing weighs just 65 milligrams, or a little more than the plastic head of a push pin.
Still, it can fly only while attached to a threadlike tether that supplies power, evidence that significant hurdles remain.
In August, at the International Symposium on Flying Insects and Robots, held in Switzerland, Japanese researchers introduced radio-controlled fliers with four-inch wingspans that resemble hawk moths. Those who watch them fly, its creator wrote in the program, "feel something of ‘living souls.’ "
Others, taking a tip from the CIA, are making fliers that run on chemical fuels instead of batteries.
So what was seen by Crane, Alarcon and a handful of others at the D.C. march – and as far back as 2004, during the Republican National Convention in New York, when one observant but perhaps paranoid peace-march participant described on the Web “a jet-black dragonfly hovering about 10 feet off the ground, precisely in the middle of 7th avenue . . . watching us”?
They probably saw dragonflies, said Jerry Louton, an entomologist at the National Museum of Natural History. Washington is home to some large, spectacularly adorned dragonflies that “can knock your socks off,” he said.
At the same time, he added, some details do not make sense. Three people at the D.C. event independently described a row of spheres, the size of small berries, attached along the tails of the big dragonflies – an accoutrement that Louton could not explain. And all reported seeing at least three maneuvering in unison.
I can’t wait for anal probing to be integrated into the mythology (“It’s where they put the listening devices!”), and for disgruntled liberals to become the substitutes for middle of nowhere white trash. It would make for a much more entertaining narrative.
And it’s seriously far away from being field-ready. If the protesters were worried about being spyed on, they should be more concerned with shotgun microphones, traffic cameras, and spy satellites that are being directed by a sinister beaurocrat played by Jon Voight.
Tech isn’t there yet, either for power cell density/efficiency or miniaturization of your telemetry link. The cutting edge here isn’t hidden behind some black project wall, you have to look at where the mobile industry is going.
Brian Brian Brian, you clearly don’t get it. You need to start using heavier grade aluminum foil for your hat. The lightweight stuff will do it for the relatively weak satellite based mind control beams, but the much stronger insert delivered local beams require heavy duty foiling to stop.
Just like how U-2 spyplanes and the Blackbirds were were just weather balloons right? The government NEVER hides super sekret new technology, evar. Doesn’t happen. They tell us everything and never lie. Ever. Never ever ever ever ever.
I’ve got my money on these things already being in existence. The government has a history of being ahead of the curve on some stuff, and considering that they had a working model 30 YEARS AGO, I find it highly unlikely that they were unable to work out the kinks in the intervening period. But YMMV.
A working model of what was essentially a tiny, uncontrollable, model airplane that couldn’t handle a fan at an right angle in a lab environment.
There’s a reason people are experimenting with adapting live, actual insects: implementing the control surfaces and hardware necessary to run the brains is a daunting challenge on the hardware level alone. Then you have to try and make the flight software, because you can’t fly something like that manually.
Of course, if you’re using a real insect, then you have the control issues of making it do what you want. That’s a whole different can of worms.
Regardless of a biological or mechanical carrying body, you still have the issue of your sensor suite, yes, you can make it small, but how are you going to power it?
Even once you have that licked, how are you going to communicate? Especially considering the really really tight power constraints you are operating under. There are billions of R&D dollars being poured into improving spread spectrum links in a modern RF environment.
Past a certain point, suggesting the government has sekrit technologies that outperform Qualcomm is just as silly as suggesting that the NSA has computers in the basement using .25nm CPUs that Intel won’t be able to fab for another decade.