Drones Could Be 'Grown' With Chemputer Machine

drones bae systems chemputer print plane
Scientists and engineers from BAE Systems and the University of Glasgow envisage that small Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs) bespoke to military operations, could be 'grown' in large-scale labs. BAE Systems

The future of warfare is chemical, though not in the way you might imagine. By the year 2100, scientists believe it will be possible to "grow" drones and military aircraft from chemical compounds, using a machine called a Chemputer.

In a video reminiscent of the android liquid reconstruction scene in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, scientists and engineers from BAE Systems and the University of Glasgow imagined what the Chemputer might look like in action, forming a drone from just a vat of chemicals.

"This is a very exciting time in the development of chemistry," said Lee Cronin, Regius Professor at the University of Glasgow and one of the developers of the Chemputer.

Cronin explained how they hoped to develop ways to assemble complex objects in a Chemputer machine "from the bottom up" with minimal human assistance. The technique would also allow aircraft to be built in weeks rather than months or years.

He added: "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 use of Chemputers in manufacturing has previously been theorized by Cronin for the use of drug production, with the idea of one day allowing people to "print" their own pharmaceuticals at home.

Transferring this idea to the complexities of electronic circuits and intricately complex mechanical parts takes things radically further, something BAE Systems hopes to make a reality before the end of the century.

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."