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Cyborg Micro Aerial Vehicle

Use insects and birds as our eyes in the sky.
  [vote for,

The US military is spending gobs of cash on developing small planes that soldiers can use to scout enemy territory. These things are tiny – some are around six inches across. They also have limited controllability, limited range, and limited payload. Despite these limitations, I really want one. They’re just so cool!

Anyway, why go to all the trouble of trying to engineer the perfect miniature flying machine, when nature has already done it for us. The power and efficiency of insect flight muscles is astonishing, not to mention their navigational skills despite an almost non-existent brain. Birds are far more complex, but are even more useful for this idea.

In its most radical form, a bird or an insect (cybug) would be fitted with electronics that interface with its nervous system, much like a rat with its brain wired into a computer. The electronics would give high level commands like fly, land, hover, face this direction etc. The animal’s brain would take care of all the mundane, and technically difficult challenges like flying, landing, hovering and looking around.

A soldier on the ground would literally have a birds eye view of what is over the next ridge through a wireless link with the animal. He could use a pocket pc and a small joystick to navigate the bird or insect to wherever he wanted. The uses are endless: visual info, chemical, biological (well, if the bird falls out of the sky, then we know something’s up), auditory (a fly on the wall).

In a more humane (not that the military cares about that) version, birds could be trained, much like dolphins, to perform tasks. Small speakers near the birds ears emit sounds that the bird understands to mean take whatever appropriate action it has been trained to do.

Insects may be a little easier to interface with, and easier to breed and carry (refrigerated).

The electronics is almost here for this application, so the next time a bug lands near you in the park, be careful what you say – it might be bugged.

TIB, Sep 07 2003

Pixel: truly tiny helicopters http://www.planetinternet.be/pixel/
Amazing. I want one. I could fly it while lying in bed. [bristolz, Oct 06 2004, last modified Oct 17 2004]

And another itsy-bitsy helicopter http://www.modelair...ates/ama/197_17.asp
An inch long and $68,000USD to build. [bristolz, Oct 06 2004, last modified Oct 17 2004]

Cyborg lamprey http://www.sciencen...g/20001111/fob4.asp
We have the technology. We can rebuild him. Faster...slimier...more bitey than he was before.... [bungston, Oct 06 2004, last modified Oct 17 2004]

Spy Cat http://news.bbc.co....1638000/1638924.stm
We did this. It died. N'uff said. [Katt, Oct 06 2004, last modified Oct 17 2004]

Cyborg spies http://news.bbc.co....mericas/4767428.stm
Modified Sharks [TIB, Mar 02 2006]

Cockroach Cyborgs http://people.clark...rchives/001497.html
Although the roach is in control of a robot, not the other way around. [DesertFox, Mar 05 2006]

Beetle Spy http://www.satnews....i?number=1050142418
Update on this idea [TIB, Feb 16 2009]

Cyborg first responders http://www.popsci.c...vests-its-own-power
Just another update [TIB, Dec 10 2011]

Pop-up Fabrication of the Harvard Monolithic Bee http://www.youtube....edded&v=VxSs1kGZQqc
[xaviergisz, Feb 21 2012]

Remote-Controlled Cyborg Cockroaches http://www.iflscien...could-help-disaster
Update [TIB, Mar 05 2015]


       I don't think we have technology small enough/light enough to put cameras and transmitting equipment on flys
dickity, Sep 07 2003

       For now.... So we start with birds.
TIB, Sep 07 2003

       Some of the current devices have bodies made of styrofoam, so I would imagine the flying part of it is quite cheap.   

       As for range, the current Air Force Global Hawk has a range of 14,000 nautical miles at an altitude of 65,000 feet.   

       I doubt that birds can be trained to follow voice commands, like dolphins.   

       Now, dolphins with wings... there's an idea!
Cedar Park, Sep 07 2003

       I like that idea! A Micro Aerial Vehicle dolphin. He could use his sonar to look through walls too!   

       Seriously though, you could train a bird to do some simple tasks with a pain/pleasure brain implant (many rats have gone through this). Use tones (or nerve impulses) to direct it, in the way we use reigns on a horse.   

       I think the biggest problem with birds would be caring for them. At least a robot can be switched off. That's another reason I'd prefer to use insects: easy to create, easy to store, easy to dispose of. I'm sure some bugs would be big enough to carry some basic electronics. The dragonfly is prime example. Megalopropus caeruleata has a wingspan of 19cm!!!
TIB, Sep 07 2003

       Who says they aren't...? ;]   

       ps: I read in a Biology book that during WW2, USA attached bombs to trained bats & released them to enemy teritorry in cover of night. Threre were some incidents where the bats blew up some US buildings.
synergy~, Sep 08 2003

       A lamprey was hooked up with something like this. Would you still think it was cool if it was a lamprey?
bungston, Sep 08 2003

       // He could use his sonar to look through walls too //   

       Since when can dolphins see through walls?
DeathNinja, Sep 08 2003

       Hey [DeathNinja]: I was only joking about that ;) but it is interesting that dolphins can ‘see’ (with sonar) through apparently solid objects. I saw a TV show where a dolphin was tested for just such an feat. It could detect shaped solid objects (like cubes, spheres etc) inside a hollow box. Obviously, dolphins could not do this out of water due to their specialized sonar. Maybe bats could??
TIB, Sep 09 2003

       New link, of interest.
TIB, Mar 02 2006

       The great thing about this is that they can already interface with a bug's neural system. They did something with cockroaches, I believe. I'm not sure how sophisticated it was, but it was cool.   

       See link.   

DesertFox, Mar 05 2006


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