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Clandestine, Disappearing Drones

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Clandestine, Disappearing Drones

The Department of Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) funded new research in drones capable of making deliveries—and then disappearing into thin air. The agency’s Vanishing Programmable Resources (VAPR) program has already shown that it’s possible to program a small chip to shatter on command. As part of the program, SRI International developed the Stressed Pillar-Engineered CMOS Technology Readied for Evanescence (SPECTRE), which is a silicon-air battery technology that can self-destruct. It’s also possible to get rid of certain parts of drones: Scientists at the University of Houston developed a new kind of circuit that dissolves when exposed to water molecules—when programmed or scheduled. Meanwhile, San Francisco-based Otherlab built a drone made out of mushrooms. Just after deployment, embedded spores begin to eat away at the drone, devouring it entirely in less than a week. Another DARPA program—the Inbound, Controlled, Air-Releasable, Unrecoverable Systems (or ICARUS) program—is working on vanishing drones and other gadgets to assist the U.S. military when carrying out operations. But disappearing drones don’t just serve a military purpose. Amazon is working on self-destructing features in the event that one of its delivery drones fails. Rather than crash into people, homes, or cars, the drone would instead gently fall apart and glide down to a safe area.