LAKE WALES, Fla. — The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory Inc. (Cambridge, Mass.) has embedded in a living dragonfly a new kind of light guide — an optrode — that is smaller and more flexible than optical fibers to enable its DragonflEye. The optrode itself will be used in medicine and diagnostics, and when attached to the living dragonfly can be used for reconnaissance, surveillance, payload delivery and guided pollination, which could help replace a depleted bee population.
Since before the age of electronics, the Department of Defense (DoD) has been trying to turn real insects into surveillance cyborgs — their greatest breakthrough being the implantation of detectors into larvae of insects so that after metamorphosis the mature adult has inside it built-in capabilities impossible to detect with the naked eye. With the advent of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), the DoD has largely abandoned real insects in favor of micro-drones the size of insects. Their biggest problem — aside from the astronomical cost — being battery life.