FAQ :: What are the Flybot, HI-MEMS and Bugs of war?

Insectoid: Harvard University’s Flybot Researchers at Harvard University are perfecting their incredible robot fly, which weighs just 60 milligrams and has a wingspan of three centimeters. This tiny robot’s movements are modeled on those of a real fly and researchers believe they could one day be used as spy drones or for detecting harmful chemicals. DARPA is funding the research in the hope that it will lead to stealth surveillance robots for the battlefield and urban environments. [1]

Bugs of war: The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency turned 50 in 2008 and invited Dick Cheney to the party. “This agency brought forth the Saturn 5 rocket, surveillance satellites, the Internet, stealth technology, guided munitions, unmanned aerial vehicles, night vision and the body armor that’s in use today,” Cheney told 1,700 DARPA workers and friends who gathered at a Washington hotel to mark the occasion. “Thank heaven for DARPA.” Cheney noted that DARPA’s mission is “to make sure that America is never again caught off guard.” So, the Agency does the basic research that may be decades away from battlefield applications. It does not develop new weapons, as much as it pioneers the technologies that will make tomorrow’s weapons better.

One of DARPA’s many projects is HI-MEMS (Hybrid Insect Micro-Electro-Mechanical System), raising real insects filled with electronic circuitry, which could be guided using GPS technology to specific targets via electrical impulses sent to their muscles. These half-bug, half-chip creations — DARPA calls them “insect cyborgs” — would be ideal for surveillance missions, the agency says in a brief description on its website.

“The HI-MEMS program is aimed at developing tightly coupled machine-insect interfaces by placing micro-mechanical systems inside the insects during the early stages of metamorphosis,” said Dr. Amit Lal. These bugs can “carry one or more sensors, such as a microphone or a gas sensor, to relay back information gathered from the target destination” [2]


[1] http://deviceguru.com/robotic-fly-to-descend-on-new-york

[2] Thompson, Mark. “Unleashing the Bugs of War.” 4.18.2008.www.time.com/ time/nation/article/0,8599,1732226,00.html.