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Part beetle, part machine: It's a cybug

From the Six Million Dollar Man to the Terminator, cyborgs – part man, part machine – have fuelled SF fantasies and nightmares.

Now scientists have moved a step closer by directing – using remote control – the flight of beetles for the first time.

The "cybug" is the work of researchers at the University of California, funded by the Pentagon, who inserted a radio receiver attached to wires into the brains and muscles of large beetles. They believe insects like these could be used to access areas where people can't go, eg, in the aftermath of an earthquake.

Noel Sharkey, professor of robotics and artificial intelligence at the University of Sheffield, said: "At the moment, the bugs wouldn't be able to carry a payload such as a camera, or GPS [receiver] so we could track them. But this research makes me uncomfortable. You never know where we will be in 20 or 30 years."

Andrew Johnson