Berkeley researchers are taking a look at the next frontier of engineered flight. They've attached electronics to a beetle's back that communicates directly with the beetle's brain and wing muscles.
They say with the right stimuli, the beetle will turn its wing muscles on and off. They can also make the beetle turn left or right depending on the stimulation.
The team is quick to say the process does not hurt the beetle.
Up next is an attempt to miniaturize the electronics so they can put it on something the size of a house fly.
After that, they're going to try and make the beetle more autonomous. They hope to give their subject way-points to a final destination, so they don't have to guide it every step of the way.
REAL WORLD APPLICATIONS
Researchers say it's possible that one day they will be able to use the beetle after an earthquake. If they could attach a heat sensor to the insect, it would be able to crawl into the rubble and search for survivors where people cannot go.
Another possibility is that this research could lead to a way for a person with a brain injury to have something attached to their brain that would communicate with their muscles and allow them to move again.