New drone leaves no trace after crash
NASA has introduced a drone mostly made of materials from living things, which makes it degradable in nature.
The drone, the first „biological” one of its kind, was put together by NASA Ames Research Center in California.
Using drones for navigation of remote places can be risky, regardless of its purpose, as the machine might crash there, which could not only be harmful to the environment but also exposes the fact that it has been flown there, not quite favorable to spies.
The new drone simply melts away.
„No one would know if you’d spilled some sugar water or if there’d been an airplane there,” said Lynn Rothschild from the research center.
A root-like fungal material called mycelium has been used for the bulk of the aircraft, cultivated in a custom drone shape by Ecovative Design in Green Island, New York.
Sticky cellulose „leather” sheets, grown by bacteria in the lab, have been employed to function as a protective covering for the bulk. The sheets are coated by proteins cloned from the saliva of paper wasps, which they use to waterproof their nests.
In order to make it as biodegradable as possible, the aircraft’s circuitry has been made of silver nanoparticle ink.
„There are definitely parts that can’t be replaced by biology,” said team member Raman Nelakanti of Stanford University.
Efforts are underway to make its sensors degradable with research studying the use of E. coli bacteria for this purpose.
Meanwhile, some critics have warned of trouble if one of such aircraft starts to break down too soon.
„We don’t want biodegradable drones to rain down from the sky and we don’t want to litter the land and seas with crashed drones even if they will eventually biodegrade,” said Ella Atkins, an aerospace engineer at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.