Researchers are NC State recently published a study which shows progress in their goal to someday create cyborg moths – also called biobot moths.

The researchers want to create biobot moths in an effort to be able to control a moth’s flight muscles. This would allow for researchers to remotely control where a moth moves and flies. They believe that if this was to be developed, it could be used to help people in need.

“In the big picture, we want to know whether we can control the movement of moths for use in applications such as search and rescue operations,” said Dr. Alper Bozkurt, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State and co-author of the study.

“The idea would be to attach sensors to moths in order to create a flexible, aerial sensor network that can identify survivors or public health hazards in the wake of a disaster.”

In order to achieve this ultimate goal, researchers recently implanted electrodes into the thorax of a moth while it was in its pupal stage. After the moth became a full adult, the electrodes sent back signals to the researchers, detailing exaclty how the moth’s flight muscles work.

“By watching how the moth uses its wings to steer while in flight, and matching those movements with their corresponding electromyographic signals, we’re getting a much better understanding of how moths maneuver through the air,” Bozkurt said.

“We’re optimistic that this information will help us develop technologies to remotely control the movements of moths in flight. That’s essential to the overarching goal of creating biobots that can be part of a cyberphysical sensor network.”

While it seems incredibly cruel to control a living animal with a remote control, it is also a fascinating and terrifying glimpse at how far technology has come.

The study was published in the Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE) , and a video providing a basic summary of the research can be found below.

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