Researchers Are Turning Cockroaches Into Life-Saving Cyborg Bugs At Disaster Sites

Most consider them pesky critters, but researchers think that cockroaches have the potential to save human lives.

These “cyborg cockroaches” are being fitted with special backpacks to become a mobile search and rescue team to help find survivors during natural disasters.

“It was in 1999 I joined the search and rescue efforts after the earthquake in Turkey,” says Dr. Alper Bozkurt of North Carolina State University.

“One of the most critical questions is where are the living surviving victims? You need to find those people in a short amount of time… Right now there’s no technology out there to provide this.”

With the power of an intrusion, Dr. Bozkurt hopes to send these cyborg roaches as a team of first responders into deadly environments.

Associate Professor Hirotaka Sato and his team at the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering in Singapore are conducting similar research.

They are equipping cockroaches with a backpack consisting of several sensors, including those that can warn of the presence of gases such as carbon dioxide. The cyborg bugs also carry a small infrared camera that can detect life by picking up temperature signatures.

“Singapore was the first country to dispatch their rescue team to Japan when the big earthquake hit on March 11, 2011,” Prof Sato, who is from Japan, told The Straits Times.

“I was awarded Nanyang Assistant Professorship in the same year and with the support from NTU, I started my cyborg robot research.”

Dr. Sato and his team found that its cyborg cockroaches can distinguish between human and non-human subjects with 87 percent accuracy.

They are hoping to be able to deploy these cyborg insects in the field within the next five years.