Love beetle wired for the remote – control patrol

Cousins of Striped love beetle called up for the bug patrol

Cousins of Striped love beetle called up for the bug patrol

Relatives of this beautiful Flower beetle or Striped love beetle (Eudicella gralli), scarab beetle will enter into service as the bug patrol.

This beetle’s shell refracts the sunlight causing the its green colored carapace to take on a rainbow hue. Native to the rain forests of Africa this species of flower beetle feeds on the nectar and pollen of flowers. The larvae of the flower beetle live in decaying wood, feeding on dead wood and leaf litter. Adults reach lengths of 25-40 mm. As in other species of this genus, the males have a “Y”-shaped horn, used to fight over females. The females have a shovel-like tusk, used for burrowing in wood.Because of its size this love beetle can be wired with a remote control device and guided via a neural implant. Below are images of beetles wired for the experiment.

Why beetles?      – Watch controlled flights of the beetle.

The research, funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), could one day be used for surveillance purposes or for search-and-rescue missions.

Beetles and other flying insects have the best flight control. Their secret to success is their integrated flight control mechanisms, that operate on a a sensory feedback from the visual system and other senses to navigate and maintain stable flight while using little energy.

Michel Maharbiz and fellow scientists are using the beetle’s natural abilitiesto navigate and fly by joining insect and machine. The current research is the first demonstration of a wireless beetle system.

The beetle’s backpack consists of an off-the-shelf microprocessor, a radio receiver, and a battery attached to a custom-printed circuit board, along with six electrodes implanted into the animals’ optic lobes and flight muscles. Flight commands are sent remotely to the beetle via a radio-frequency transmitter that is controlled by a nearby laptop. Oscillating electrical pulses delivered to the beetle’s optic lobes trigger takeoff, while a single short pulse ceases flight. Signals sent to the left or right basilar flight muscles make the animal turn right or left, respectively. The giant flower beetle’s size and weight from four to ten grams and is four to eight centimeters long means that it can carry relatively heavy payloads. For search-and-rescue missions, for example, the insect would need to carry a small camera and heat sensor.

In addition, the beetle’s flight can be controlled relatively simply. A single signal sent to the wing muscles triggers the action, and the beetle takes care of the rest. “That allows the normal function to control the flapping of the wings,” says Jay Keasling, who was not involved in the beetle research but who collaborates with Maharbiz. Minimal signaling conserves the battery, extending the life of the implant.


Excerpts and Image courtesy of Eudicellagralli

Image 1.

Excerpts courtesy of

The Army’s Remote-Controlled Beetle – the insect’s flight path can be wirelessly controlled via a neural implant. – Emily Singer Thursday, January 29, 2009


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