Has NASA Developed The Ultimate Spy Drone?


The perfect spy drone? NASA invents a drone that simply disappears or decomposes away if it crashes

NASA may have invented the perfect machine for spies, after it tested the world’s first “biological drone”.

The biological drone is largely made up from fungus-like material, although some parts remain man made.


The driver behind the bio-drone is NASA’s Ames Research Center, which earlier this week leased the Moffett Airfield to Google for 60 years. According to the New Scientist, the bio-drone made its inaugural flight earlier this month.

The body of the drone is reportedly made up of a root-like fungal material called mycelium. A New-York-based company called Ecovative Design cultivated the customised drone shape.  Mycelium is sometimes used as a green alternative to cardboard and other packaging materials.

Bio-Drone (NASA/Ames)
Bio-Drone (NASA/Ames)

“No one would know if you’d spilled some sugar water or if there’d been an airplane there,” said Lynn Rothschild of NASA’s Ames Research Center in California, who created the drone.

The mycelium was then covered in protective cellulose “leather” sheets grown by bacteria in the lab. The protein in those sheets was cloned from the saliva of paper wasps. And even the electrical circuits were printed in silver nanoparticle ink, but some parts of the drone, including the battery, the controls, and propellers, had to be made with traditional materials.

“There are definitely parts that can’t be replaced by biology,” team member Raman Nelakanti of Stanford University reportedly said. But the next item the team is looking to ‘bio-engineer’ is the drone’s sensors, possibly build using E. coli bacteria.

The thinking behind the drone is that if it ever crashed, the bio-parts of the drone would simply melt or decompose away, making it an ideal tool for spying operations over enemy territory. That said, the remaining battery and propellers would offer up a fairly big clue that a drone had been used.

Rise Of The Drone

Drones are becoming an increasingly popular option that companies are exploring for potential uses in the future, including the delivery of packages.

Earlier this week, Amazon advertised for a British drone flight engineer as it looks to ramp up the launch of its unmanned delivery option in the UK. The company hopes to launch a drone delivery service by 2018.

Google has also admitted it is developing its own fleet of airborne drones for home deliveries.

Last month, a report warned that while drones are set to become increasingly popular and will deliver benefits, there are some security, privacy and safety risks associated with the increasing use of unmanned drones.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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