A team of researchers from MORSE Corp. have devised a drone that can "literally vanish" after completing its delivery or reconnaissance mission by dissolving.
Called the Inbound, Controlled, Air-Releasable, Unrecoverable Systems (ICARUS) programme, it was initiated by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) in 2015, and has now been successfully developed. According to a Darpa release, the drones are meant to be "small, single-use, unpowered delivery vehicles dropped from an aircraft, each of which literally vanishes after landing".
The ICARUS drone is made of materials that can depolymerise, or dissolve, when exposed to heat and sunlight, according to a report in Popular Mechanics. The drone as such will be made of a lightweight film and be equipped with a guidance system that is smaller than the size of a tennis ball.
Once its mission is completed, ICARUS dissolves into a puddle of liquid that is clear, leaving behind only the electronics and whatever supplies that needed to be delivered, noted the report.
Morse CEO Andreas Kellas said, "Developing an aircraft that can meet the accuracy and range requirement [set by Darpa] alone is a challenge, but add in the disappearing requirement and the problem becomes nearly impossible."
Morse won the $8m (£6.1m) contract to develop ICARUS in 2016 and have now demonstrated that the drone can not only fly a distance of 100 miles, it can also land within 30 feet of its target, noted Popular Mechanics.
In Darpa's original call for the drone's development, they pointed out certain scenarios where such an instrument could prove to be useful, like a disaster zone in need of medical aid or blood. ICARUS could possibly be used to drop off supplies and there is no need to worry about recovering the drones and delivery vehicles from the already hard-to-reach areas. Its reconnaissance abilities are also of definite interest to the military, the report added.
At this time, details regarding the actual size of the drone, the amount of weight it can carry and the chemical composition of the dissolving material are not yet known. Whether or not this material will have any environmental impact after disintegrating has also not been mentioned.