General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper Drone

BAE Systems to Grow Drones

BAE Systems have unveiled the latest innovation in military aircraft production.

Using advanced chemical processes, scientists from BAE Systems and the University of Glasgow believe that it will be possible to ‘grow’ unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) in the future.

Professor Nick Colosimo, a BAE Systems Global Engineering Fellow, said:

The world of military and civil aircraft is constantly evolving and it’s been exciting to work with scientists and engineers outside BAE Systems and to consider how some unique British technologies could tackle the military threats of the future.

The new technology has been dubbed ‘Chemputer’. Lee Cronin, Regius Professor at the University of Glasgow and Founding Scientific Director at Cronin Group PLC, who is developing the Chemputer, described the process:

We have been developing routes to digitize synthetic and materials chemistry and at some point in the future hope to assemble complex objects in a machine from the bottom up, or with minimal human assistance.

As the MOD’s new £100 million deal confirms, drone use is increasing in the UK military and one problem is always going to be speed of delivery of new systems to meet operational requirements. Where traditional drone development can take years, Chemputer grown drones could be created in weeks with mission specific capabilities.

Professor Cronin added:

This is a very exciting time in the development of chemistry. Creating small aircraft would be very challenging but I’m confident that creative thinking and convergent digital technologies will eventually lead to the digital programming of complex chemical and material systems.

The idea may not be as far-fetched as it sounds. The US Army recently conducted trials in making drones using 3D printing.

Source: Lifting the lid on future military aircraft technologies

Photo: Reaper, a Remotely Piloted Air System (RPAS), part of 39 Squadron Royal Air Force, by Cpl Mark Webster, British Army (Crown Copyright, 2011).

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