Smellicopter is an immoral device

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The smellicopter is part man-made and part insect made. It is a drone, attached to which are a pair of moth antennae. It’s been lauded as a very interesting “hybrid” and the news media have discussed it with excitement. The research team amputated the antennae from a moth while it was anaesthetised by placing it under a very cold temperature. They then attached the antennae to the drone. They incorporated a computer into the drone which could detect changes in the antennae and convert those changes into signals which could be stored and read by the researchers.


Smellicopter. Photo in public domain. You can see the moth antennae at the top of the drone.

The purpose is to detect such things as carbon dioxide in buildings destroyed by earthquakes so that they can then guide the rescuers to, perhaps, a trapped person underneath the rubble. The drone incoroporates sensors so that it can avoid impact with objects around it. The smellicopter would potentially have many uses because they can go into small places where humans can’t.

They found that the moth’s antennae are far superior to any odour detection device that humans can build. That’s why they cut them off a moth and the scientists are delighted. But nobody until Ron Geddes, living in Cupar, Fife, mentioned the immorality of the device. He wrote to The Times newspaper and said: “I find the melding of an animal part and technology for whatever ingenious idea instinctively immoral. That the insect was anaesthetised does not mitigate this immorality; the moth is disfigured. Two respect the natural world we should be obliged, in developing such ideas, to study the moth’s antennae and see if we have the ingenuity to duplicate it.”

At present we don’t have the ingenuity to duplicate it, which is why they disfigured moths. It’s just an insect. Nobody cares, except people like Ron Geddes and myself who see it as immoral. I fully agree with his assessment.