3D PRINTERS could be so advanced by 2040 that they could create small unmanned aircraft, BAE Systems scientists and engineers claim.

These unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) could then potentially be used as a group of wide-winged aircraft for protracted or enduring surveillance or as rotary-winged UAVs to rescue single civilians or soldiers from dangerous situations, they suggest.

The scientists, who have been working on futuristic aircraft technologies, have been looking at the idea that they could be created by super high-tech on-board 3D printers, an additive layer and robotic assembly.

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The UAVs could render themselves useless with the installation of dissolving circuit boards, or they might be able to land in a recoverable position if they are needed for further use.

The team works with the UK's leading aviation thinkers to predict how aircraft engineering might evolve.