Proposals for controlling insects using micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) and turning them into micro air vehicle (MAV) sensor platforms have been requested by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
DARPA wants to develop inexpensive MAVs to find weapons and explosives inside buildings or caves. Mechanical and fluidic microsystems would allow remote control, could extend insect life, and provide for gas, audio and even imaging sensors. Insects would have MEMS inserted during their growth cycle, providing for production line-like integration with the creature’s biological functions. “During locomotion [the] insect thorax generates heat and mechanical power, which may be harnessed to power the microsystem payload,” says DARPA.
One goal is for a remote pilot to fly a cyborg insect to within 100m (300ft) of a target. Control could be maintained using pheromones or mechano-sensor activation and direct muscle or neural interfaces. The US military has also been researching how birds and insects fly in an effort to produce flapping micro- and nano-UAVs (Flight International, 25-31 October 2005).