Genetically modified cyborg dragonflies are being developed
January 30, 2017
A Biomedical solutions company called Draper announced that they will be creating a living dragonfly drone as part of their DragonflEye project. The drone dragonfly will be equipped with a small backpack, which is powered by a mini solar panel and contains a guidance and navigation system that allows it to fly on its own. Instead of hijacking all muscle control, the system will send messages to the insect’s “steering” neurons found in its nerve cord. Utilizing genes naturally found in the dragonfly’s eyes, the “optrodes” within the backpack send these messages as flashes of light in order to guide it.
Jesse J. Wheeler, the program’s lead researcher, stated that they developed a first-generation prototype, but haven’t actually tested it yet. Regarding the plans for the project, he mentioned that “in the first year of the project, we focused on developing core enabling technologies like the backpack, optrode, and synthetic biology toolkit for the dragonfly. As we begin our second year, we are preparing to equip dragonflies with our first-generation backpacks in a motion capture room that can monitor their precise flight movements as data is captured from navigation system.”
If we ever do see these drone dragonflies out in the world, they would primarily be used as pollinators and tiny surveillance systems. Since the backpack is an all-in-one device, it could be used on other insects in the future…such as bees.
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