Scientists have created a drone with a difference.

They’ve taken over the bodies of insects by strapping backpacks on them that connect to their nerve cords.

So far, engineers say the technology is already showing promise in controlling the flightpath of dragonflies.

The components of the backpack before they're folded and attached to the insect
The components of the backpack before they’re folded and attached to the insect (Draper)

 

Dragonfly nerve cords are too small for engineers to directly connect fibres to, so they’ve used a novel light-bending technique to pass messages to its brain.

Scientists working on the aptly named DragonflEye project also genetically modified the bugs to make them more sensitive to the mind-influencing light pulses.

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It sounds like something right out of science fiction, particularly that episode of Black Mirror, but this light-bending technology could be used in humans and lead to developments in medicine.

Their immediate aim is to help farmers.

The technology could be used to keep an eye on honeybees (Owen Humphreys/PA)
The technology could be used to keep an eye on honeybees (Owen Humphreys/PA)

 

Honeybees contribute $15 billion to the US agriculture industry, so guiding their flight could protect the important insects.

DragonflEye’s principal engineer, Jesse J Wheeler, says: “This system pushes the boundaries of energy harvesting, motion sensing, algorithms, miniaturisation and optogenetics, all in a system small enough for an insect to wear.”

Perhaps scariest of all, the lab working on this reports that the dragonflies could be used for reconnaissance.

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