Researchers Test ‘Bug Cam’ as Newest Search and Rescue Tool

"Hybrid insect" technology is being designed at the University of Michigan.


 
 

JAMES ORR, The Telegraph | | Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Minute cameras and microphones mounted on the backs of beetles will help emergency services find victims trapped or buried underneath rubble.

Researchers aim to power a tiny "backpack" of sensors by "scavenging" energy from the insect's own wing movements to help create a lasting power source.

The bugs can then be released into collapsed buildings or other areas seen as too dangerous for human rescue teams.

Professor Khalil Najafi, who is developing the new technology, said the insect's own kinetic energy would act as a battery for a variety of communication equipment.

He said: "Through energy scavenging, we could potentially power cameras, microphones and other sensors and communication equipment that an insect could carry aboard a tiny backpack

"We could send these 'bugged' bugs into dangerous or enclosed environments where we would not want humans to go."

The "hybrid insect" technology is being designed by a team of electrical and computer engineers at the University of Michigan in the United States.

The project is funded by the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and is entitled the Hybrid Insect Micro Electromechanical Systems program.

Researchers have already developed a device able to generate power from the wing motion of a Green June beetle during tethered flight.

By mounting a miniature generator on each wing of an insect, scientists expect to be able to achieve enough power to operate onboard cameras or microphones - allowing the bug to "gather vital information from hazardous environments".

A recent report by the team states that their "final prototype will be mounted on a live beetle, and tested during its untethered flight" next year.

Prof Najafi added: "One of the main constraints in the development of Micro-Air-Vehicles (MAVs) is the limited weight and volume reserved on the device for a power supply.

"Energy scavenging from an insect's high frequency body movements hold great advantages such as unlimited source of power over the insect's lifetime, and no need for recharging."



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