3D printer drones will take to skies by 2040, claim BAE scientists

Futurists technologies could allow aircraft to heal itself, divide into smaller ones or knock out missiles with direct energy. 

BAE Systems concept designs

An artist impression of BAE’s the Transformer, a futuristic long-range aircraft that divides into smaller ones during or upon arrival at its mission. Photograph: BAE Systems/PA


3D printers could be so advanced by 2040 they could create small unmanned aircraft, BAE Systems claim.

These unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) could then potentially be used as a group of wide-winged aircraft for protracted or enduring surveillance or as rotary-winged UAVs to rescue single civilians or soldiers from dangerous situations, the defence firm’s scientists and engineers suggest.

The researchers, who have been working on futuristic aircraft technologies, have been looking at the idea that they could be created by super hi-tech onboard 3D printers, an additive layer and robotic assembly.

BAE Systems concept designs

BAE Systems are looking at the possibility of aircraft parts that can heal themselves in minutes, even during flight. Phtograph: BAE Systems/PA


The UAVs that could render themselves useless with the installation of dissolving circuit boards if they fall into enemy territory, or they might be able to land in a recoverable position if they are needed for further use.

BAE believes this could create

the ultimate adaptable taskforce, with a lead aircraft able to enter any unknown scenario and quickly manufacture an effective tool set for any task”.

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