The Pentagon is working on ambitious project that would involve creating drones that can fly like bats and are powered by lasers.
The U.S. Department of Defense has just announced a new competition for science grants to build a drone capable of autonomous flight, which sounds fairly ho-hum until you dig deeper into the Broad Agency Announcement. Basically, they want to builld a fleet of bat-like drones that could be powered by lasers, an ambitious technological effort to be sure.
It’s all part of a broader effort by the Pentagon to shift away from static, helicopter drones and toward more dynamic unmanned aerial vehicles that are more nimble and can mimic the movement of flying animals and insects. The announcement notes that advancements in our understanding of the biology of such flying creatures has yielded some great insights into complex flight mechanics, which they are hoping to turn into big improvements in unmanned aerial systems.
The Pentagon believes that combining a more naturalistic design with finely tuned sensors could give the military a huge advantage over the enemy in the field. And that’s where the lasers come in, as running flexible-wing drones is a lot tougher than spinning a propeller, so keeping it powered by constantly feeding it energy from a laser could be a way around this hurdle.
“The Department of Defense (DoD) announced an award competition for the Defense Enterprise Science Initiative (DESI), a new pilot program that supports university-industry collaboration on use-inspired basic research,” the statement reads. “DESI is sponsored by the Basic Research Office, Office of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering and executed in collaboration with the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Air Force Research Laboratory, and the Army Research Office.”