As you may or may not have been aware, DARPA and other organizations have been trying to make small aircraft that are modeled on insects. The problem they ran into, however, was that these little aircraft needed something to power their wings, and the weight of a power source was prohibitive. Did they give up? No. Instead, they gave real beetles mind control implants that allowed them to be remotely controlled. The problem they ran into there was that the mind control implants needed to be powered and batteries were still problematic. Of course, the next logical step researchers in Michigan took was to fit the beetles with piezoelectronics on their wings so that they power their own mind control implants through flight. Yes. This is a thing that is happening.
If you aren’t familiar, piezoelectronics allow pressure to be converted into electricity. Remember those light-up shoes? The same technology could also be used to create laptops that charge by typing, or mind controlled beetles that perpetuate their enslavement with every flap of their wings, for example.
If all this didn’t sound sci-fi enough as it is, there is one more twist. At the moment, the researchers are affixing piezoelectric mechanisms to the beetles wings, which is providing a decent amount of energy. Where they think the future really is, however, is building the mechanisms directly into the beetle’s wings, which could increase the power output by an order of magnitude. Also, it would mean there are crazy cyborg beetles out there. It’s a toss up on how you should feel about that second part.
The potential applications for such beetles are myriad. When you inevitably connect a camera to one of these babies, you have one of the most efficient, tiniest, most maneuverable aircraft you could ever ask for. These cyborg beetles could be incredibly useful for search and rescue missions, military reconnaissance, and general exploration. While you’d be inclined to think that the big advantage to these is that they would be expendable, that probably isn’t necessarily the case. The cost of the electronics and the process of retrofitting them with all kinds of cyborg gear is probably expensive enough that you don’t want to be flying them into walls, so don’t expect to find them at your local hobby shop next to the RC helicopters any time soon. Still, remote controlled cyborg insects. I have never been so not-terrified-and-disgusted-by-the-thought-of-beetles-ew-gross.
(via Popular Science)