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Some time ago a new system under development by IAI came to light: A tiny UAV designed with wings similar to those of a butterfly. IAI is not the only one developing insect-like UAVs, and in addition others aim to harness real insects for intelligence gathering purposes. Insects to be implanted with tiny electronic systems are already under development in the US.
The US Army’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is already developing insects for military use. The idea is to enhance them with miniature electronic and mechanical implants, allowing operators to control the tiny bugs and use them in intelligence operations or to search for explosives. Radio signals will activate the signals and direct the insect to its destination.
The insects will be equipped with microscopic sensors for explosives detection, and tiny cameras and microphones for espionage. Experts claim that miniaturization in electronics and optics has reached unbelievable levels, with the result being tiny systems of almost any size.
The goal of the American researchers is to first implant the microscopic systems during the cocoon stages of insects such as butterflies, who will later grow to full size with the implant already in its body. DARPA researchers concentrate their efforts on butterflies, moths and dragonflies, who go from larva to cocoon and finally become adult insects.
Researchers still aren’t certain whether insects can be controlled and put to military use, but the experiments continue.
An expert in the field recently mentioned earlier attempts to implant birds with various sensors. According to him DARPA is a federal research agency, and the US government apparently believes that insect could eventually be remotely controlled. Miniaturization, he said, helps. Miniature cameras that weigh only one gram exist, with a range of dozens of yards.
Some Israeli research institutes attempted to develop this area in the past, but nothing was published. A few years ago there was an experiment involving the use of bees to search for explosives. The project encountered difficulties at some point, and there are no more details.
There’s no doubt that several nations or companies are developing extremely tine UAV, that can infiltrate structures and record visual and auditory data. Miniaturization drives intelligence gathering forward.
The question remains, however, how will we, simple, non-combatant citizens be affected, and how much privacy will we lose. Progress, it seems, has its price.