IT’S alive! Well, almost. The first “biological drone”, an autonomous vehicle stitched together largely with materials from living things, made its inaugural flight earlier this month.
Drones have proved invaluable for those who want to explore remote locations, from storm-chasers to the military. But a crash in such a location can not only blot a sensitive environment, it also lets everyone know that you’ve been spying. A bio-drone could potentially avoid that by degrading away in a puddle of inconspicuous goo.
“No one would know if you’d spilled some sugar water or if there’d been an airplane there,” says Lynn Rothschild of NASA’s Ames Research Center in California, who created the drone.
The bulk of the prototype is made of a root-like fungal material called mycelium. It was cultivated in a custom drone shape by Ecovative Design, a company in Green Island, New York, that grows the stuff as a lightweight sustainable alternative for applications like wine packaging and surfboard cores.