RoboDragonfly: Tiny Backpack Turns Insect into a Cyborg

Scientists look to flying animals — birds, bats and insects — for inspiration when they design airborne drones. But researchers are also investigating how to use technology to interact with, and even guide, animals as they fly, enhancing the unique adaptations that allow them to take to the air.

To that end, engineers have fitted dragonflies with tiny, backpack-mounted controllers that issue commands directly to the neurons controlling the insects’ flight.

This project, known as DragonflEye, uses optogenetics, a technique that employs light to transmit signals to neurons. And researchers have genetically modified dragonfly neurons to make them more light-sensitive, and thereby easier to control through measured light pulses.