Scientists Are Currently Creating Bomb-Sniffing Locust Cyborgs

Saturday, 09 July 2016 - 5:26PM
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Robotics
Saturday, 09 July 2016 - 5:26PM
Scientists Are Currently Creating Bomb-Sniffing Locust Cyborgs
Engineers from Washington University in St. Louis are currently developing locust cyborgs that can "sniff" for bombs. The researchers have been given a grant of 750,000 from the Office of Naval Research after the engineers found that the bugs could actually be trained to zero-in on particular smells even when there's other odors present.

Locusts have antennae with thousands of natural sensors, and according to Baranidharan Raman, who heads the team, this makes them much more effective when it comes to bomb-sniffing compared to even the most advanced synthetic sensors utilized by robots.

Raman and his team transform the locusts into bomb-sniffing cyborgs by impacting an electrode into their brains, which in turn allows them to take control of their antennae and get readings on electrical activity. They then train the locusts by exposing them to a smell and subsequently rewarding them with food. The team found that by repeating this system of rewards only 5 or 6 times, the insects were able to associate the smell they'd been exposed to with the food they were rewarded with.

The engineers are also currently working on a locust-sized backpack to transmit data to the operator of the locust cyborg. Apparently, a red LED lights up if explosives are found; a green one lights when none are present. Interestingly enough, they also plan on adding a laser to the getup, which supposedly allows the cyborg operator to point the insect in the area it needs to go. Of course, this makes the locust quite similar to a remote-control drone, but then again, it's not being called a cyborg for nothing.
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