Future drone armies will grow in chemical vats

Humans need not apply.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

BAE Systems has lifted the veil on how future military drones could enter this world -- grown through labs packed full of chemical vats.

Drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), are now commonly used for military purposes, from scouting operations to spying and surveillance. Their use can remove the need for human agents in the field and the market for this technology has barely been tapped.

Drones are going to retain a strong position when it comes to military applications in the future, and as a result, scientists and engineers have been pondering the ways in which future UAVs could be manufactured -- and this includes being "grown" in labs en masse through chemical vats.

It might sound like something out of Terminator, but BAE Systems said last week this could become a reality thanks to a new intelligent system called Chemputer.

The machine could harness advanced chemical processes to "grow" custom aircraft including electronics systems from the molecular level, according to the firm.

"This unique UK technology could use environmentally sustainable materials and support military operations where a multitude of small UAVs with a combination of technologies serving a specific purpose might be needed quickly," BAE Systems says. "It could also be used to produce multi-functional parts for large manned aircraft."

If made reality, Chemputer could allow military manufacturers to produce vast numbers of drones quickly for applications including surveillance missions which need high-speed craft, emergency supply deployment which need release systems inbuilt into drones or perhaps even weaponry.

As shown in the video below, a robot arm would respond to commands to "self-assemble" drones, merging chemistry and sustainable materials to manufacture small aircraft. The firm says that this could cut the time to design and create custom UAVs to a matter of weeks, rather than years.

One of the developers of Chemputer, Regius Professor Lee Cronin, commented:

"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.

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."

We will have to wait and see if BAE Systems' concept becomes a reality, but as noted by Mashable, the firm generally pulls through on concept releases -- and so it may only be a matter of time.

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