By 2100, researchers at BAE systems believe they’ll be able to manufacture drones and other small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) using an unconventional method once perceived as nothing more than a fantastical concept you’d only see in the realm of science fiction. This incubational process would “grow” drones and other small UAVs in giant tanks called “chemputers.” Unlike 3D printing where machines and other parts are built in layers, a chemputer would enable engineers to build UAVs and some of their electronic structures at a molecular level, by controlling the chemistry inside the tank.
One of the biggest upsides behind this conceptual method of development is it would only take weeks to manufacture UAVs and other electronic components, instead of months or years, which is how long these processes presently take. Developing military crafts at the molecular level in this fashion would enable engineers to support specific military operations in a quick and efficient manner, and would come in handy during scenarios where military crafts would need to rapidly be produced in response to newfound threats or emergency spikes in demands.
“This is a very exciting time in the development of chemistry,” says Lee Cronin, a Regius professor at the University of Glasgow that’s researching and developing chemputers. “Creating a 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 and material systems.”
This brand of technology would also be used in the manufacturing of multi-functional parts for large manned aircraft like fighter jets and helicopters. In similar fashion to 3D printing, developing drones using chemputers would happen from the bottom up and would require a minimal rate of human intervention. Engineers already develop lighter and more complex UAVs faster than they have ever been able to in the past, which is why this seemingly outlandish manufacturing process doesn’t seem as inconceivable anymore in the engineering and aerospace industries.
“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,” says Professor Nick Colosimo, an engineer who works for BAE Systems that’s been heavily involved with the project.
This also isn’t the first time chemputer manufacturing has been brought up among researchers. Researchers have previously theorized that this same exact process can be used to produce pharmaceutical drugs, with hopes that people could one day use chemputers to manufacture their own medicines in their own homes.
Filed Under: M2M (machine to machine)