These tiny sensors can hitch a ride on mothback
Everyone knows carrier pigeons, but what about carrier pigeons? This research project uses the nocturnal insects as a delivery service for tiny electronic packages that weigh less than a hundredth of an ounce.
The system was developed by the University of Washington graduate students and their prolific little gadget creator Shyam Gollakota.
Bumblebees with high-tech backpacks serve as a platform for data acquisition
"This is the first time anyone has shown that sensors can be released by tiny drones or insects like moths, which can fly through tight spaces better than any drone and withstand much longer flights," Gollakota said in a UW press release. He has made it his specialty to demonstrate new skills on extremely small scales, such as bee backpacks and video transmission with very low power consumption.
The sensor platform that you can see on a penny below can be anything from environmental monitoring to a microphone or a light sensor. The battery can last for years on such a power sipping board, so it may be ideal for long-term monitoring of hard-to-reach places.
A tiny sensor that sits on a penny.
Photo credit: Mark Stone / University of Washington
The release system is an essential aspect of the setup. To keep things light and simple, the tiny sensor is held in place with a tiny magnetic pen. A radio signal can be sent that creates a current in a coil surrounding the pen, affects its magnetic field and causes the device to fall.
It's small enough to be easily carried quietly by a moth - though it should be noted that the hawk moth isn't exactly the smallest moth of all time; They grow to be a hummingbird, as I've seen myself. But it looks like the tiny device could easily fit in a smaller way too. Maybe this is the next experiment.
Inexpensive, long-lived sensors carried by moths (or other insects) to every corner of an ecosystem could provide very interesting data for those studying those ecosystems. Sure, you could use it to sneak a microphone into a top secret area too, but I'm sure no one would try that.
The research, funded by the National Science Foundation, was featured at Mobicom 2020.
Is it a bird Is it a mistake? No, it's a biomimetic micro-drone with flapping wings
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