Fleets of cyborg cockroaches could someday roam into damaged nuclear power plants or collapsed mines to carry out reconnaissance or locate survivors, LiveScience.com reports.
A team of researchers implanted live cockroaches with electrodes that stimulate the nerves in the insects' antennae, enabling the scientists to steer the creatures around like remote-controlled toys.
While people may normally think of cockroaches as pests that live on human waste, these insects are better than any small-scale robots that exist today, said Hong Liang, a materials scientist at Texas A&M University in College Station, and co-author of the study publishein the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.
The remote-controlled roaches can "go anywhere you guide them to," including places humans couldn't go, such as disaster zones, Liang told Live Science.
In the new study, Liang and her colleagues implanted electrodes in the nerves of American and discoid cockroaches (Periplaneta Americanaand Blaberus discoidalis, respectively).
The researchers glued tiny backpacks to the backs of the discoid roaches, which were large enough to support them. Each pack held a microcontroller, wireless transceiver and a battery.