A photo depicting a robotic mosquito inserting a syringe into a man’s finger has been circulating online, with claims that drone, or spy, insects are currently in production. Is this true?
While there are robotic drone insects – known as “Micro Aerial Vehicles” or MAVs – in development, there is no evidence that the technology depicted in the popular photo exists.
The popular photo has been circulated with the following caption:
Is this a mosquito?
No. It’s an insect spy drone for urban areas, already in production. It can be remotely controlled and is equipped with a camera and a microphone. It can land on you, and it may have the potential to take a DNA sample or leave RFID tracking nanotechnology on your skin. It can fly through an open window, or it can attach to your clothing until you take it in your home.
Johns Hopkins has published information about MAVs, but none of the literature available indicates that such technology as syringe-wielding robotic mosquitoes exists. In fact, it appears that most of the focus at Johns Hopkins has been mimicking the movements of the Painted Lady Butterfly, not mosquitoes, as evidenced by a series of videos featuring the work of Johns Hopkins Department of Mechanical Engineering student Tiras Lin (see below).
There have been reports of military drones the size of an insect for decades (see this video for a prototype dragon fly drone in the 1970s), but these devices are much simpler than intimated by the popular photograph. One such drone prototype is patterned after a housefly and does not display such technology either (below right).
The popular spy mosquito photo appears to be an artist’s rendering of a future technology. While the research featured by Johns Hopkins could certainly one day lead to such developments as a DNA-extracting spy mosquito, it appears that the current technology is nowhere near that level yet.
The technology of insect drones does exist, though not at the level implied by the artist’s rendering of a DNA-extracting mosquito. It is clear that research is continuing at the university level and by the military, for different reasons. Robotic insects flying recon missions could easily exist today.
Here is a video showing the work of Johns Hopkins student Tiras Lin:
Johns Hopkins Insect Flight page
Filed under: Hoaxes & Rumors