by Bailey Johnson
October 3, 2012
Researchers in the U.K. hope to create
by scanning honey bees' brains and
into autonomous flying robots.
And they're not even doing it for a
future robot overlord?
(Credit: University of Sheffield )
Sometimes real science sounds more like science fiction. Just the
phrase "bionic bees" sounds like something out of an old paperback.
But that's the goal of a new project from two U.K. universities, the
University of Sheffield and the University of Sussex. Engineers from
the schools are planning to scan the brains of bees and upload the
data into flying robots with the hope that the machines will fly and
act like the real thing.
The goal of the project is to create the first robots able to act on
instinct. Researchers hope to implant a honey bee's sense of smell
and sight into the flying machines, allowing the robots to act as
autonomously as an insect rather than relying on preprogrammed
Possible applications for the bionic bee include search and rescue
missions at sites such as collapsed mines, detecting chemical or gas
leaks, and even pollinating plants just like a real bee.
"The development of an artificial
brain is one of the greatest challenges in artificial
So far, researchers have typically studied brains
such as those of rats, monkeys, and humans, but actually
'simpler' organism such as social insects have surprisingly
advanced cognitive abilities," James Marshall, head of the $1.61
said in a statement.
Researchers anticipate that developing a
model for scanning and uploading an animal's brain will offer
insight into how a brain's cognitive systems work, potentially
offering advances in understanding animal and human cognition.
"Not only will this pave the way for
many future advances in autonomous flying robots," wrote Thomas
Nowotny, the leader of the Sussex team, "but we also believe the
computer modeling techniques we will be using will be widely
useful to other brain modeling and computational neuroscience
The project - which researchers have
Brain" - is funded by the U.K.'s Engineering and Physical
Sciences Research Council with technical help from IBM and hardware
donated by Nvidia.
Scientists hope to have a bionic bee up
and buzzing by 2015.