The Indian armed forces may have ‘remote-controlled’ rats sneaking into enemy positions to get a look at it before troops strike during an operation, reports said. The Asymmetric Technologies lab, part of the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO), is working on animal cyborgs.
What is the Indian Project About?
The project, which began more than a year ago, is now in its second phase and the proof of concept is already in place, a report by Times of India said. This was discussed at the 108th Indian Science Congress during a plenary session on defence. P Shiv Prasad, director of the DRDO Young Scientist Laboratory Asymmetric Technologies, delivered the presentation.
What Are Animal Cyborgs?
A living animal that has been surgically enhanced or modified with electronic or mechanical devices to give it certain additional capabilities is referred to as an animal cyborg.
These alterations may be intended to enhance the animal’s natural abilities or to allow it to perform tasks that it would not normally be able to do.
Animal cyborgs have been used in research and practical applications such as military, search and rescue, and therapy. Some animal rights activists have expressed ethical concerns about the use of animal cyborgs, claiming that the modifications may cause unnecessary suffering to the animals or deprive them of their natural abilities.
What About the Research in India?
The first phase has been completed in India. During this stage, electrodes were implanted through surgeries to control the movement of the rodents. The idea now is to place it in a non-invasive way, such as a head mounting. The goal is to keep the animal as comfortable as possible. Currently, there may be some discomfort following the surgery, The Times of India quoted the DRDO scientist, who gave the presentation, as saying.
The technology sends signals to the brains of the animals, causing them to turn, continue moving, or stop. These are essentially pleasure points in the nervous system that, when touched, allow for remote control of the animal.
For example, if the rat comes to a halt, the remote control can be used to nudge it forward, the TOI report explains. Rats are the best choice for the job because they can move faster, reach deeper corners, climb stairs, and even survive on waste food, according to the scientist.
These rodents are best used in cities. For example, in a situation similar to September 11, 2001, terrorists were holed up in a hotel and troops were unaware of their location. Other species can also be used to create animal cyborgs, he claims. He stated that the rats were already in the lab and that all ethical approvals had been obtained.
Where Else Have Animal Cyborgs Been Used?
Animal cyborgs are already on the market in developed countries such as China. Remote controlled beetles, like rats, have been developed.
According to a report in Wired, in 1994, the US Air Force proposed using “sex attractant chemicals for bugs" as weapons. A “sting/attack me" chemical that causes bees to attack could be “particularly effective for infiltration routes," according to the document. It also considered using “strong aphrodisiacs, particularly if the chemical also caused homosexual behaviour."
In a DARPA project, rats were fitted with “radios that transmit their brainwaves." The ultimate goal is to assist in the search for disaster survivors.
Military organisations have looked into the use of animal cyborgs for a variety of purposes, including bomb detection and enemy tracking. The United States military, for example, has funded research into the use of genetically modified insects outfitted with sensors and other electronic devices for intelligence gathering and surveillance.
Animal cyborgs have been used in search and rescue operations as well. Researchers at the University of South Carolina, for example, have developed a system that enables trained dolphins to locate and mark underwater mines using sensors and other devices attached to their bodies, reports said.
They have also been used in therapy, most notably with children with autism and other developmental disabilities. For example, the organisation “Warrior Canine Connection" trains service dogs to help veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and it employs a combination of traditional training methods and biofeedback technology to teach the dogs to recognise and respond to their handlers’ emotional states.
They aid in collecting environmental data and monitoring the health of wildlife populations. Researchers, for example, have attached sensors and other electronic devices to migratory birds to track their movements and collect data on their behaviours and habitats.
Animal cyborgs have also been used in the entertainment industry, such as films and television shows. The Star Wars character “Chewbacca," for example, is a cyborg with electronic devices and mechanical parts integrated into his body.
Read all the Latest Explainers here