Remote Neuronal Flight Control of Insect Flight
Michel Maharbiz and Hirotaka Sato
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
Despite major advances, the performance of micro air vehicles (MAVs) is still limited in terms of size, payload capacity, endurance, and controllability. Various species of insects, among them flies (diptera), moths (lepidoptera), dragonflies (odonata), and beetles (coleoptera) have as-yet unmatched flight capabilities and increasingly well-understood muscular and nervous systems. Additionally, some of these insects undergo complete metamorphosis making them amenable to implantation and internal manipulation during metamorphosis. In light of this, we attempt to create an implantable bio-interface to electrically stimulate the nervous and muscular systems of an alive insect to hijack its flight control. Our first target is the beetle for the insect platform, and we call it the "cyborg beetle."
As the insect platform for the cyborg beetle, we employed three different sized beetles: Cotinis texana (2 cm, 0.3 g payload), Mecynorhina torquata (7 cm, 1.8 g payload), and Megasoma elephas (20 cm, 4.0 g payload). The smaller one navigates into tiny spots while the larger one carries heavier extra instruments (e.g., miniaturized camera). Our neural stimulator consisted of a microcontroller and a microbattery, both of which were mounted on the dorsal thorax of the beetles. The microcontroller was connected with wire electrodes while other terminals were inserted into the left and right compound eyes (optic lobes). After a systematic survey for appropriate flight control signals, our neural stimulator achieved initiation, cessation, elevation, and turn control.
Figure 1: Cotinis texana beetle with microsystem and implanted electrodes for neuronal control