Under the theory that you can't kill a bug with an IED, DARPA, the military's research arm, is looking to create "insect cyborgs," reports UPI.
The Pentagon is seeking applications from researchers to help them develop technology that can be implanted into living insects to control their movement and transmit video or other sensory data back to their handlers.
In an announcement posted on government Web sites last week, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, says it is seeking "innovative proposals to develop technology to create insect cyborgs," by implanting tiny devices into insect bodies while the animals are in their pupal stage.
It seems that DARPA's original idea was to train honeybees to do military surveillance work, but $3 million in research money failed to deliver the honey.
"These activities have highlighted key challenges involving behavioral and chemical control of insects. ... Instinctive behaviors for feeding and mating -- and also for responding to temperature changes -- prevented them from performing reliably," it says.
As far as the development of purely robotic or mechanical aircraft -- so-called micro- or nano-unmanned aerial vehicles -- the solicitation says that developing energy sources both powerful and light enough poses "a key technical challenge."
Both sets of challenges "might be effectively overcome" by the development of insect cyborgs,
DARPA plans to use MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems) technology, which is able to cut and shape silicon as needed. The implant will serve as a "delivery platform" onto which various applications can be loaded "with the goal of controlling insect locomotion, sens[ing] local environment, and scaveng[ing] power."