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Can I Identify Flying Insects Using an Array of RFID Readers?

Posted By RFID Journal, 05.31.2012
Many research articles that I have found, as well as your recent post about tracking insects using radio frequency identification (see How Can I Track Insects Via RFID?), focus on identifying bugs at very close range (1 centimeter or less), but I understand that there are RFID readers able to interrogate tags from up to a 1-meter distance. Can you suggest a system that would allow insects to be identified flying through an array of readers separated by 1 to 2 meters? Of course, it would be best if the tags were small and the readers were inexpensive.

—Name withheld

This kind of question really bugs me.

No, I'm kidding. I couldn't resist making a pun.

There are RFID systems available that can read tags from a distance of 1 meter (3.3 feet), 10 meters (33 feet), 300 meters (984 feet) and more. The problem is that the longer-range systems require a tag with a battery, which would probably be a tad heavy for the average fruit fly.

Passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) systems, which can read tags from 10 meters away, require a large tag antenna to achieve that kind of read range (usually measuring about 8 inches in length). As you shrink the antenna, the read range decreases accordingly. A tag that could be used on an insect would require the antenna to be etched onto the chip, which is possible—but the read range would be only about 1 centimeter (0.4 inch), which would obviously not be very useful for your purposes.

As such, I don't think it's possible to create a tag small enough and light enough to be used on an insect for tracking it at a distance of 1 to 2 meters. If any of our readers have information to the contrary, however, please post details below.

—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor,
RFID Journal

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