The semiconductor life of a robotic dragonfly


robotic dragonfly draper jpg

The company is aiming for a cybernetic creation that combines “miniaturized navigation, synthetic biology, and neurotechnology.”

The electronics combined into a minute “backpack” for the insect even include support for energy harvesting and a navigation system, with steering done via light pulses.

HHMI and robotic dragonfly

Apparently the project is a collaboration between both Draper and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) in the USA.

It’s featured on IEEE Spectrum, where Evan Ackerman writes:

The unique thing about DragonflEye (relative to other cyborg insects) is that it doesn’t rely on spoofing the insect’s sensors or controlling its muscles, but instead uses optical electrodes to inject steering commands directly into its nervous system, which has been genetically tweaked to accept them. This means that the dragonfly can be controlled to fly where you want, without sacrificing the built-in flight skills that make insects the envy of all other robotic micro air vehicles.

You can read more on the background to the project, where IEEE Spectrum interviews Jesse J. Wheeler, a senior biomedical engineer at Draperwho works on the DragonflEye programme.

It’s not the first time, of course, that roboticists have turned to nature for inspiration or guidance.

Other insects and fauna that have been robotically emulated, for example, include centipedes, eels, sand fleas and even an octopus

Thanks to Steve R for highlighting this one.

You can view a video of DragonflEye in action.

Image: Draper via Vimeo


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