BAE has visions on the aircraft of the future

BAE Systems has lifted the lid on some futuristic technologies that it believes could be incorporated into military and civil aircraft from 2040.

The four technologies, revealed in separate animations below, were thought up by the defence giant's R&D team, in collaboration with government, industry and some of the UK's top universities.

Nick Colosimo, a Futurist and Engineering Manager within the BAE 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."

On-board 3D printing
In the future, BAE sees lead aircraft being able to create UAVs using on-board 3D printers, via additive layer manufacturing and robotic assembly techniques.

The 3D printers, it says, will be able to respond to data fed to them by a remote control room where a human commander decides what should be produced. This means lead aircraft would be able to enter any unknown scenario and quickly manufacture an effective toolset for any task.

Directed energy systems
Advanced materials that allow jets to quickly heal themselves from damage could be incorporated into future aircraft, according to BAE engineers. The idea is that lightweight adhesive fluids inside patterns of carbon nanotubes would be released when damage occurs, so that jets are better-prepared for dangerous missions.

The Transformer
The Transformer aircraft concept would see flexible aircraft systems combining smaller jets for more efficient travel. Once the aircraft has reached its destination, it can then be split off and adapt quickly to different situations. Combining smaller sub-aircraft with larger ones would also save fuel and reduce drag, BAE says.

Directed energy systems
Currently in use on battlefields today, directed energy systems can be used to protect ground troops from incoming projectiles such as missiles or mortars via concentrated energy beams.

In the future, BAE believes these could be adapted into an attachment for aircraft that is capable of firing a concentrated beam of energy at the speed of light.

The weapon would enable fast-moving jets to destroy targets mid-air with incredible accuracy, at a low cost-per-beam.

Laura Hopperton

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