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Scientists Remotely Control Flying Insects

A giant flower beetle with a radio transmitter (Credit: Tat Thang Vo Doan and Hirotaka Sato/NTU Singapore)

After mastering remote control of cockroaches, scientists now say they managed to control insects in flight.

While crawling insects have been manipulated in lab settings since the 1990s, control of flying insects has been a long-standing hurdle.

Researchers at University of California, Berkeley, now say they have managed to remotely direct six-centimeter-long giant flower beetles to take off and land, turn left or right and even hover in mid-air. The steering was relatively crude, and researchers say there’s room for improvement. They determined that the muscle the controls folding the insect's wings is also used for turning.

The insects were flying in a large room equipped with eight motion-capture cameras.

Scientists say someday the remote controlled insects could carry tiny cameras and serve in search and rescue operations after earthquakes and other disasters.

Since the 1990s, scientists in laboratories around the world have been attaching miniature electronic devices and electrodes to large cockroaches, trying to remotely control their movements.

The technology got so good that today, at least one U.S. company sells kits with all required electronics and live cockroaches, aimed at young experimenters in colleges and even high schools.

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