Scientists Make Robotic Backpacks for Dragonflies

Posted on June 8, 2017

Dragonfly backpack robot

Scientists built an electronic backpack for dragonflies. The backpack interfaces with the dragonfly's nervous system. It is solar powered thanks to tiny solar panels. Researchers at Draper call the dragonfly and robotic backpack system the DragonflEye.

The researchers can control the flight of the dragonfly using DragonflEye. Researchers at Draper and Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) at Janelia Research Campus created new optogenetic tools that send guidance commands from the backpack to special "steering" neurons inside the dragonfly nerve cord.

Jesse J. Wheeler, biomedical engineer at Draper and principal investigator on the program, says of the hybrid dragonfly drone, "DragonflEye is a totally new kind of micro-aerial vehicle that’s smaller, lighter and stealthier than anything else that’s manmade. This system pushes the boundaries of energy harvesting, motion sensing, algorithms, miniaturization and optogenetics, all in a system small enough for an insect to wear."

Here is a video about the unique dragfonfly drone from Draper. It is the first video released about the drone and shows it taking off. IEEE has an interview about the project with Wheeler.