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Bring in bug squad: insects may help in rescues

FLYING insects could soon be used in search and rescue missions to help locate survivors of earthquakes and other disasters, scientists say.

Tiny cameras and microphones mounted on beetles might help the emergency services find victims trapped or buried beneath rubble.

The researchers are aiming to power tiny ”backpacks” of sensors by ”scavenging” energy generated from the insects’ wing movements to create a lasting power source.

The hope is that the bugs can then be released into collapsed buildings or other areas that are too dangerous for human rescue teams to enter.

Professor Khalil Najafi, who is developing the new technology in the United States, said the insects’ kinetic energy would act as a battery for the equipment.

”Through energy scavenging, we could potentially power cameras, microphones, and other sensors and communication equipment that an insect could carry aboard a tiny backpack,” Professor Najafi said.

”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. The investigation is being funded by the US government-run Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency.

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 the insect, scientists expect to be able to create enough power to operate on-board cameras or microphones – allowing the bug to ”gather vital information from hazardous environments”.

The researchers hope the beetles will be ready for test flights next year.

Source: Telegraph, London