Scientists Transform Locusts Into Cyborg Bomb Detectors

By: | August 12th, 2016

Image courtesy Baranidharan Raman

We have heard of bomb sniffing dogs and carrier pigeons trained to help humans during war.

Now, thinking outside the box, a researcher in the US is turning locusts into cyborg bomb detectors that can be sent anywhere to sniff out explosives hidden in hard-to-reach areas.

Bugs are more powerful than robots

Engineering professor Baranidharan Raman of the Washington University in St Louis thinks that animal noses are still far more sophisticated than anything manmade.

Raman thinks that these bugs will prove to be much more effective than robots because of their sensitive antennae, which can pick up scents and tactile information. He found that locusts could identify a particular scent that they are trained to detect even in the presence of other odors.

Dr. Raman’s work has received a $750,000 grant from the Office of Naval Research to continue his studies to turn locusts into military tools.

He plans to equip the insects with several pieces of sophisticated technology and train the locusts to spot a specific odor among other smells.

A silk “tattoo” will be placed on the locust wing, generating heat from light. This will help to control the locust using a laser beam, steering the locust around targets by heating up its wings.

Sensors implanted in its brain will monitor neural activity before being sent wirelessly to the controller. The sensors will be linked to a small “backpack’ containing a transmitter to send the signal to a receiver. If explosives are found, the receiver’s red LED will light up.

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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