In a Technion aeronautics laboratory, a pair of scientists are conducting experiments funded by the U.S. Army that would allow them to control the flight of insects from afar, as if they were mechanical flight vehicles.
Instead of building a tiny plane whose dimensions would be measured in centimeters, the researchers are taking advantage of 300 million years of evolution. “In order to build drones the size of an insect, you need systems to monitor and control, and to produce energy,” says Technion Prof. Daniel Weihs, who served until recently as the chief scientist of the Ministry of Science and Technology.
In the research’s early stages, the scientists examine how an insect’s muscles operate at each moment of flight. Two special cameras, positioned over the flight simulator, record every miniscule movement made by a flying insect. In parallel, electrodes inserted in the various muscles document the electronic signals received in the insect’s body during flight. Such measurements allow the researchers to identify which electric signals are connected to which movements. Basically, they translate the insect’s flight movements into a code comprised of electronic signals. Using this code, the researchers are able to send electronic signals into an insect’s muscles, triggering movements. Read more.