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Scientists attached an electronic backpack to a genetically modified dragonfly and turned it into a drone

By Max Toomey
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

At a certain point it becomes really difficult to scale down machines. A tiny drone can only be so tiny.

Scientists at Draper have come up with a solution: make a drone out of a dragonfly.

Researchers at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) genetically modified a dragonfly to make the nerve endings in its spinal cord light-sensitive. The team at Draper then attached a backpack, powered by a tiny solar panel, that can control the dragonfly remotely with flashes of light. It allows them to send the insect where they want.

Is the experiment cruel to dragonflies? Entomologists believe it’s pretty unlikely that insects “feel” pain in the way we do.

And the technology has some important applications. For example, it could be used to replace bees that farmers depend on (but which are dying out around the world at an alarming rate) or be used to monitor the health of beehives in a novel way. Cyborg insects could also be used as the next generation of surveillance equipment.

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