Steerable Locusts Detect Explosives

Locusts have a remarkable ability to identify particular chemical signatures - like those present in explosives. This could come in handy for humans - but only if you can steer the insects into areas of interest.

(Explosives sniffing locust)

Srikanth Singamaneni, associate professor of materials science, who specialises in nanomaterials, will be creating a plasmonic "tattoo" made of a biocompatible silk that will be applied to the locusts' wings to generate mild heat and help steer them towards particular locations by remote control...

Neural signals from the locust's brain will then be processed by an on-board low-power processing chip that will decode the information and send a wireless alert back to the authorities.

And the result will appear on a simple LED: red for present, green for absent.

As Technovelgy readers know, the original idea for steerable insects comes from the 1990 science fiction novel Sparrowhawk, by Thomas A. Easton. In the novel, he writes about genetically engineered animals that are greatly enlarged, and then outfitted with implanted control structures.

"There's the brain, the spinal chord, the motor centers. A cable, here, from the controller to the interface plug... wires from that to the brain." She explained how the controller, a computer, translated movements of the tiller or control yoke and the throttle and brake pedals into electrical signals and routed them as appropriate to the jets or the genimal's motor centers, triggering the genimal's own nervous system into commanding its muscles to serve the driver. All the necessary programming was built into the hardware...
(Read more about the Roachster)

Although a bit less specific, Philip K. Dick anticipated this idea in 1964 in his novel Lies, Inc.. See the reference for the housefly monitor.

Via BBC.

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