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News Link • Drones

Bringing drones and cyborg cockroaches together to map disaster zones

• by Michael Irving

Researchers at North Carolina State University (NCSU) have already demonstrated the hardware and software that would make this possible, and have now thrown drones into the mix, to act as aerial beacons that guide and contain the biobots to areas of interest.

The NCSU biobots are made by fitting cockroaches with tiny electronics hooked up to their antennae and cerci, which the bugs naturally use to navigate. Located near the back of the abdomen, the cerci detect air movements and warn the critter of an approaching predator, while the antennae feel around in front for solid objects. Scientists can electrically stimulate these organs to effectively drive cockroaches remotely, using the cerci as an accelerator and the antennae to steer left and right.

Previous studies have suggested ways to map dynamic environments, such as collapsed buildings, using either autonomous or sound-sensitive biobots. The NCSU system would see bugs allowed to run freely around a small, designated area, with a UAV keeping watch from overhead. If a bug strays too far from the drone, their sensors will tell them there's an object in the way, prompting the bugbot to turn back.

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