Growing military drones in chemical vats could be a possibility this century, according to BAE Systems. Ben Gruber reports.
STORY: Years from now, British aerospace company BAE Systems envisions producing task specific military drones...using giant vats filled with chemicals. Instead of building drones - this technology theoretically grows them. It starts with a device called a Chemputer - a chemical computer capable of digitizing and synthesizing chemical processes. SOUNDBITE (English) NICK COLOSIMO, BAE SYSTEMS GLOBAL ENGINEERING FELLOW, SAYING: "You may be familiar with 3D printing or additive layer manufacturing. This is where we take a robot arm and it takes blobs of matter and the blobs of matter are built up with layers to create an object. Now in something like 'chemputing' what we do there is we have blobs of matter which are molecule sized and we use chemical reactions to do the assembly." The hope is that this chemputing vat process could speed drone production - growing a battle ready machine equipped with all its complex electronics in weeks, rather than years. It will take several decades before this futuristic idea is even close to reality. SOUNDBITE (English) NICK COLOSIMO, BAE SYSTEMS GLOBAL ENGINEERING FELLOW, SAYING: "I think that in the next five to ten years we'll be discovering new materials using this process. We'll also be making things at the very very small scale, so things you can just about see within perhaps five or ten years. It's a long way off before we'll see us growing aircraft but there is potential to do that this century." But it will take heavy investment and significant scientific breakthroughs to GROW this idea beyond the realm of science fiction.