3D printers could leave geeks' basements to fly on army rescue missions and build their own aircraft by 2040.
Defence contractor BAe Systems yesterday revealed its predictions for futuristic aircraft technologies, looking to use the additive process of 3D printing to let military drones build unmanned aircraft while on missions.
The drones could use 'super hi-tech' onboard 3D printers to create the miniature flyers, which could make themselves useless if they fell into enemy hands with the installation of dissolving circuit boards.
Basing its speculations on the progress of existing technology, the firm also showed computer-generated clips of a long-range aircraft that can divide into three smaller craft, and a directed energy weapon that could destroy missiles at the speed of light.
It released the four video clips yesterday from its R&D team to offer an unusual insight into "drawing board" technologies that would normally be kept secret.
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."
3D printing technology is already usedto serve a variety of purposes, from manufacturing working guns to printing replacement body parts.