Meet the Nigerian Scientist Giving Drones the Ability to Smell Bombs from Afar

“Imagine being able to detect odours a significant distance away with form factors which you can mount on a commercially available drone. The system will be complete with on board biological learning and classification.”, wrote Oshiorenoya E. Agabi on his LinkedIn profile.

Osh Agabi is a Nigerian neuroscientist and engineer. He is the founder and CEO of the Nigerian startup, Koniku, a wetware company which is the world’s first neurocomputation company based in Silicon Valley. Koniku is a privately held, venture backed company using biological neurons to interface with the real world. They build systems that use real biological neurons for sensing, control and computation.

The company is currently focused on two related technologies: the odour positioning system™ and the odour surveillance system™. These technologies will replicate sensitivity and specificity levels only seen in biological systems.

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This innovation is based on Osh’s Ph.D. research in Imperial College London, that allows drug developers to replicate human organ drug interactions using “lab on a chip” technology in order to radically improve preclinical testing procedures.

Drone that Can Smell Bombs from Afar

Koniku is giving machines the ability to smell just like you, isn’t that awesome?

Osh’s start up, has developed a prototype 64-neuron silicon chip and their first application is making a drone that can smell explosives. According to Osh, the drone would be able to smell bombs several kilometers away, it could also be used for surveying farmland, refineries, manufacturing plants — anything where health and safety can be measured by an acute sense of smell.

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This is a very big innovation because there are no silicon devices which are able to give us the level of sensitivity that we find in biology. It took the processing power of one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers to simulate just one percent of human brain activity for a single second when tried by researchers from Germany and Japan.

Osh believes “there are no practical limits to how large we can make our devices or how much we can engineer our neurons. I believe as intelligent computation goes—biology is the ultimate frontier.”

Academic Background

Osh who has work experience across 5 (Nigeria, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and US ) countries and speaks 5 (Avianwu, Creoles and pidgins English-based, English, German, Swedish and Yoruba) languages, started his studies in Federal College of Fisheries and Marine Technology in Nigeria where he obtained a Diploma in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, Diploma studies in marine engineering, naval studies and merchant marines in 1997. He obtained a Bachelor of Science in Theoretical and Mathematical Physics from the University of Lagos also in Nigeria in 2001.

Read: Meet the Nigerian who makes Drone for the U.S Army

Osh left Nigeria for Sweden where he obtained a Master of Science in Physics from Umeå University in 2005. He studied also at Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich, Switzerland (2005 – 2010), where he developed applied criteria for computability of biological neurons in vitro. He went further to obtain a PhD in Computational Neuroscience and Engineering at Imperial College London in 2014.

Osh is a member of several international science and engineering societies, these include Swiss Physical Society, Swiss Society for Neuroscience, Society for Neuroscience, American Physical Society and Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.


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