BAE Systems’ aircraft innovations of the future

Posted on 7 Jul 2014 by Callum Bentley

Scientists and engineers at BAE Systems have lifted the lid on some futuristic technologies that could be incorporated in military and civil aircraft of 2040 or even earlier.

The four technologies unveiled are: 3D printers so advanced they could print unmanned aerial vehicles during a mission; aircraft parts that can heal themselves in minutes; a new type of long range aircraft which divides into a number of smaller aircraft when it reaches its destination, and a directed energy weapon that could engage missiles at the speed of light, destroy them and protect the people below.

Printable UAVs

These unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) could 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.

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”.

From the drawing board

Experts at BAE Systems’ research and development team at Warton are offering a unique insight into some drawing board technologies that would normally be kept well under wraps. The team works with the UK’s leading aviation thinkers from universities, Government and a whole range of companies to predict and explore how aircraft engineering might evolve. Based on their thinking, the four futuristic concept aircraft technologies have been brought to life in short animations.

Nick Colosimo, a futurist and engineering manager within the R&D team said: “Of course we don’t know exactly what sorts of aircraft technologies will be used in 2040 with any certainty, but it’s great to be able to show the public some concepts that might be possible through projecting where today’s technology could get to. BAE Systems has a rich heritage in research and development, and our team builds on literally decades of previous R&D work by thousands of scientists and engineers.”

BAE Systems’ defence, aerospace and security business, invested £117M of its own capital in R&D in 2013.