Researchers have developed a way to explore some of the most remote and dangerous places on Earth without ever having to set foot in them in the first place. This comes in the form of tiny sensors that can be placed on the backs of moths which are then dropped into these locations.
The sensors attached to the moths weigh a minuscule 98 milligrams and can withstand a fall of 21 metres. Once the moth reaches its remote destination scientists send a Bluetooth signal command to the sensor which releases it, sending it falling to the ground. When the sensor lands it is capable of monitoring elements like the temperature and humidity for up to three years.
Each sensor is attached to a moth or tiny drone via a magnetic pin which is surrounded by a thin coil of wire. To release the device, a wireless command is sent to the sensor, which then creates a current that runs through the coil to generate a magnetic field, resulting in the pin popping out and releasing the sensor. Due to the low weight and design of the tiny sensor, its maximum falling speed is only 17 kilometres per hour, meaning it can hit the ground at its maximum falling velocity without suffering any damage.
Researchers involved in study note this is the first time anyone has successfully proven that sensors can be released from insects or tiny drones. They also go on to mention that insects like moths are more suited to the job than tiny drones because of their ability to sustain longer flight times and navigate through narrow spaces.
The next step in the study involves scientists developing a way to recover the sensor after the batteries have died, which would allow them to be used in environmentally sensitive areas around the world.
Take a look at the moth dropping sensors below:
Picture: Mark Stone/University of Washington