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Researchers from the Sandia National Laboratories have been researching the common dragonfly for inspiration to help develop more efficient and effective missile defense systems. Led by computational neuroscientist, Frances Chance, the research team has been looking at the insect’s ability to intercept and hunt down its prey. The hope is to convert the dragonfly’s hunting abilities into applicable computer algorithms that can benefit missile defense technologies.

Considering that dragonflies haven’t changed much in over 325 million years, they must be doing something right. The dragonfly’s brain is what makes the insect such an exceptional predator. Although simple and even primitive, the dragonfly’s brain is capable of fast and complicated calculations, allowing the dragonfly to quickly calculate a straight intercept course towards its prey.

The researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have reversed engineered the dragonfly’s behavior to create a simulated dragonfly brain in a digital environment. The results of the simulation mimicked the insect’s brain with great accuracy. The simulation successfully managed to mimic the dragonfly’s 50-millisecond reaction time.

In comparison to missile defense systems, the dragonfly’s brain uses much less “computing power” for practically the same task. With the knowledge gained from dragonflies, it is likely that in the near future missile intercepting software will require much less computing power and therefore much smaller computers to be used on missile hardware. Thus meaning lighter computers, lighter missiles, and less power needed to operate the anti-missile defense system. mentions that there are several fundamental differences between dragonflies and missiles. However, even if the technology won’t work out for missile defense systems, it could still be applied to other applications such as autonomous cars or drug development.