Entomologists study insects known for their hard exoskeletons, jointed appendages, segmented bodies, bilateral symmetry and antennae. But perhaps the most impressive part of an insect is its lateral compound eyes. Scientists wishing to study insects have over 1 million species to select from!
Insect eyes are so impressive scientist and researcher John Rogers of the Science Research Group at Urbana-Champaign, University of Illinois, is designing miniature drones cameras based on their unique design. The big challenge for engineers is to build a drone camera with a 180° range of vision and clear vision throughout that line of sight. Insects have this ability when born.
After trying to design their own eyes scientists decided to borrow from insects which have been evolving for millions of years, specifically the bark beetle. These new digital cameras copy the compound structure of the insect’s eyes. The beetle eye has dozens of light-sensitive cells spread over its surface with each its own lens.
The “new” insect is just 0.4 inches (1 cm) in diameter and can be used to view the inside of a human body or for surveillance as with drones. Currently Roger’s insect eyes can only see in black and white. In the future the technology will be scaled up. A design based on the dragonfly eye could have up to 20,000 light-sensitive cells.