Implantable Microengineered Neural Interfaces for Studying and Controlling Insects [BPN571]
Our goal is to control the flight of an insect by hijacking its sensory systems. Although significant funding has gone into developing micro air vehicles (MAVs, wingspan< 15cm), flying insects still significantly outperform the most sophisticated flying robots in efficiency, flight time, stability and maneuverability. The restrictions that such a small spatial scale places on the amount of energy that can be stored on-board and on actuator efficiency, means this gap is expected to continue for some years to come. We are therefore pursuing a novel MAV design that uses an actual flying insect. We aim to produce small insect backpacks capable of receiving commands remotely and providing power to a combination of neural and optical stimulators. The patterns of stimulation will allow us to trick the insects motor-sensory system into responding to fictitious self-movements. We aim to use these ‘ghost’ stimuli to remote-control the insect’s flight while at the same time capitalizing on their remarkable natural flying abilities. The project has now advanced to testing devices in free flight and optimizing the stimulation parameters.