Time and again, the progress of a device is seen by its shrinking size. It happened with our mobiles, TVs and now the same trend can be seen in drones and quadcopters as well. While a lot of companies are working on portable and small foldable drones, researchers at Charles Stark Draper Laboratory and Howard Hughes Medical Center have created the tiniest drone possible, that too with a twist!
Instead of creating a design from scratch, they have found an efficient way to use live, controllable, and genetically engineered fireflies instead.
Cleverly named the DragonflEye, the small flying insect is fit with a sort of ‘backpack’, which consists of tiny solar-powered cells. This is fit on the back and leads to the controller being able to even maneuver the insect. While the firefly can fly on its own, the researchers have created a software that will control the ‘hardware’, meaning the insect has been altered not just on the outside by solar cells but also with small data-gathering sensors inside.
Draper Creating DragonflEYE Drone For Special Service
Draper’s technology works by "developing tiny optical structures, called optrodes, that can activate the special 'steering' neurons with pulses of light piped into the nerve cord from the dragonfly’s backpack. Traditional optical fibers are too stiff to be wrapped around the tiny dragonfly nerve cord, so Draper developed innovative flexible optrodes that can bend light around sub-millimeter turns. These optrodes will enable precise and targeted neural activation without disrupting the thousands of nearby neurons."
Apart from the solar cells that power this live drone, researchers have also added numerous miniature sensors that will let it collect data and analyze its surroundings. With this cool advancement, it’s hard to say we haven’t reached the next level of scientific achievement!
Already the use of drones in business applications is rampant, with more and more benefits discovered every day, but this will definitely help people go where both people and drone can’t. A big advantage of the DragonflEye is that it can blend in with nature, which could have a huge impact on surveillance and intelligence.
The technology used in controlling these insect-drones can also one day help people with disabilities and those who have lost movement in limbs, making it a big leap even for the medical industry.