A team of researchers from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore is proposing that living insects could be outfitted with miniature electronic controllers to enable programmable control and a control algorithm designed for swarming behavior.

According to the researchers, the so-called cyborg insects used in conjunction with the control algorithm might enable multi-robot swarms to conduct search and rescue missions.

Source: NTUSource: NTU

By combining the living insects with miniature electronic controllers, the team suggests that there would advantages such as energy efficiency in addition to adaptability to difficult terrains.

“The effectiveness of the algorithm is demonstrated through an experimental validation in which a cyborg swarm was successfully navigated through an unknown sandy field with obstacles and hills,” the team noted.

The researchers suggest that by equipping the insects with sensory systems, the cyborg insects can rapidly perceive and respond to the environment and effectively detect and avoid obstacles.

To demonstrate their effectiveness, Madagascar hissing cockroaches were outfitted with “backpacks,” which enabled remote control through a central computer. The backpacks reportedly relayed commands through electrodes placed near the cockroaches’ sensory organs, thereby guiding them in desired directions.

Further, the researchers created a tour group-inspired (TGI) control algorithm that uses the insects’ biological inclinations to achieve efficient swarm navigation.

The team is eyeing the cyborg insects for applications such as post-natural disaster search and rescue operations or for gathering environmental readings across a wider region.

An article detailing the cyborg insects, “Natural-artificial hybrid swarm: Cyborg-insect group navigation in unknown obstructed soft terrain,” appears in the journal arXiv.

To contact the author of this article, email mdonlon@globalspec.com