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Winged biorobots

Method for monitoring electrical signals in flight muscles of moths

Alper Bozkurt/ North Carolina State UniversityMethod for monitoring electrical signals in flight muscles of mothsAlper Bozkurt/ North Carolina State University

A flurry of moths, flying in search of plane crash survivors in a hard-to-reach location, or sniffing for toxic fumes in a subway station hit by a terrorist attack. These scenes – seemingly right out of a sci-fi movie – could well become reality, according to a group of electrical and computer engineers at North Carolina State University. Headed up by scientist Alper Bozkurt, they have created methods to electronically manipulate the flight musculature of moths and monitor the electrical signals used by the insects to control these muscles. In the future, this may enable the researchers to remotely control moth flight, creating winged biorobots. The group’s ultimate objective is to equip the moths with sensors, creating an airborne network that can assist in search and rescue missions and other operations. The next steps of the research, published online on July 18, 2014 in the Journal of Visualized Experiments, include developing an automated system to explore and adjust the flight control parameters of insects.