back to article Boffins build Cyborg beetles, fly them by remote control

Scientists working at the edge of the creepy have demonstrated fine-grained remote control of critters known as giant flower beetles, with the idea that they could carry payloads into difficult places in activities like search and rescue. The boffins have shown off their test subjects being instructed to take off, turn and …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Something about this doesn't quite sit right.

    Is there a difference between this and shackling monkeys to lab tables?

    What if the beetle doesn't want to go wherever it's being sent? I'm sure I wouldn't want an electric current hurled through my body forcing me a particular way.

    Do we have to abuse our fellow living creatures in this way?

    1. Tachikoma

      Re: Ethical?

      I'm into bug macro photography so spend a lot of my free time during the warmer months staring at various creatures through a fat macro lens, and I learned early on insects/bugs/etc are not as stupid as people think. They can display a quite disturbing intelligence (certain species of spider especially) and aren't the reactionary (see food: eat, see opposite sex: hump) creatures most people think. For me I would say yes, this is almost as bad as strapping a monkey to a table, but if I was trapped under a collapsed building and one of these turned up, I wouldn't turn it away in disgust.

  2. gregthecanuck

    Private Bailey reporting for duty!!

  3. Helena Handcart

    I for one

    welcome our cyborg beetle overlords.

    @ac Interesting question; Douglas Hofstadter raises similar points about whether different animals have different "sized" souls and how humans treat them in his excellent book The Mind's I.

  4. Horridbloke

    This is stage 1

    Stage 2 involves Austrian bodybuilders.

  5. x 7

    I don't think this is new. "New Scientist" carried a similar report 2/3 years ago

  6. Ru'

    Just wait for the stories of amazon planning deliveries by beetle, or planned bans due to possible use by isis/isil/daesh (or whatever they're branded as today) etc. for bomb delivery.


    1. Red Bren

      According to The Last Leg...

      They're called "cystisis" because they're irritating twats!

  7. x 7

    just imagine what havoc you could do if you controlled a swarm of africanised'd only have to modify the queen - the rest would swarm after her

  8. This post has been deleted by its author

  9. Chris G Silver badge


    Bug Bothering Boffins Beetle Beneath Buggered Buildings!

    It's a sign of the times that commenters on a tech site should be concerned about how bugs in an experiment feel.

    Not such a bad thing either. Although I vacuum up the webs in my house I try to let the spiders getbaway as they help to catch flies and mosquitos, plus even a spider has a right to live.

    1. Kaltern

      Re: Headline

      Unlike wasps. They should die in fire.

    2. Steven Roper

      Re: Headline

      "It's a sign of the times that commenters on a tech site should be concerned about how bugs in an experiment feel."

      For me it's not so much about how the bugs might feel, but more about the dangerous slippery slope* that this kind of research and experimentation entails. Inevitably, research that starts with doing things to bugs, soon moves on to frogs, then rodents, then monkeys, and eventually human beings. And of course there are all kinds of justifications for it; in this case "search and rescue," a nice populist application to soothe the uneasiness that people feel about the idea of developing technology that allows people to directly control the actions of other living things. After all, if it's a case of a bug being used to save a life then what's wrong with it being a frog? Or a mouse? Or a monkey? Where does the justification stop?

      Even if you say, well it would stop short of human beings, there is still the fact that if it can be done to a monkey, someone somewhere in the world will apply it to human beings, legally or illegally, regardless of legislative frameworks. What matters is not whether it will be done, what matters is simply that it can.

      Furthermore, coupled with the advent of indetectable and invasive nanotechnology, this sort of thing has the potential to become something truly horrific. If you look at issues such as contemporary slavery, which is unfortunately prevalent even in supposedly free nations, you can begin to imagine some of the absolute horrors this kind of research could unleash.

      For every worthwhile justification for such research, there are a dozen ways it can be misused. The question is, do the benefits it could confer outweigh the dangers represented by such research? This is the sort of thing that, like nuclear research, needs to be subject to strict controls imposed by an international regulatory body similar to the IAEA, and forcibly stopped the moment it advances to any creature more advanced than, say, a frog or a mouse - to ensure it can never be done to people.

      *I find it interesting these days that the "slippery slope" argument is increasingly being dismissed as a logical fallacy alongside such expressions as "ad hominem" and "appeal to authority". I suspect this is a particularly nasty piece of social engineering being employed by certain elements of society to dismiss concerns about not only the misuse of technology, but such things as invasive surveillance and far-reaching police powers, etc. etc.

  10. Mike Moyle

    "With the 3.9V lithium battery..."

    So would the article be in "Direct Current Biology"?

  11. Kubla Cant Silver badge

    Do they get a return video feed? If not, piloting the beetle into a collapsed building is going to be error-prone.

    1. Tim Bergel

      No, as soon as the unfortunate insect is out of sight they have no way of knowing what it is doing or of usefully guiding it. Something that is always carefully ignored whenever you see a 'scientists create cyborg insect' story.

      1. kalqlate

        No doubt that this is very early in their research program. There would be no reason at all for this if audio/video return weren't planned. I imagine with miniaturization of the necessary electronics, there will be GPS, magnetometer, gyroscope, etc., perhaps even miniaturized Google Project Tango environment mapping at some point. Still, the use of beetles and other flying insects is only a temporary technology until fully synthetic tiny drones arrive. Some are already here, but their power requirement demands them to be wired currently. Beetles can probably go for kilometers or flitter about for hours without needing food or water.

      2. DugEBug

        But they do know where it is going - to the nearest bright light.

  12. Bucky 2

    Sounds familiar

    I remember reading something like this some time ago. I believe it was a biography entitled, "Danny Dunn, Invisible Boy."

  13. x 7

    I knew it wasn't new

    here you are - buy and build your own robocockroach

    Dates from 2013

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