The winners of future wars may be those militaries that can manufacture and field the most 3D-printed drones, a new study claims.
A study by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), a national security think tank created by a pair of Clinton and Obama appointees, says that in the future warfare may be carried out by fleets of quickly manufactured drones that will swarm a battlefield, destroying whatever is in their path.
The study, Process Over Platforms: A Paradigm Shift in Acquisition through Advanced Manufacturing by CNAS’s Ben FitzGerald and Dr. Aaron Martin, Director of Strategic Planning at Northrop Grumman, says that the U.S. might maintain its technological edge over other countries by being able to leverage 3D-printing techniques to manufacture large numbers of armed drones that can overpower an opponent.
The authors say that Unmanned Aircraft Systems can be built to meet operational requirements by drawing on several emerging technologies such as 3D-printing, integrated robotic assembly, and digital design technology. The authors also urge the U.S. to make investments in these capabilities and warn that “if we do not innovate boldly, others will.”
The report also claims that this sort of warfare could reduce the number of boots-on-the-ground soldiers in battle, as waves of drones could be sent in their stead.
This sort of prediction may seem fanciful at this time, however. 3D-printing technologies are not quite at the level of manufacturing intricate machines. Furthermore, 3D-printing tech has not advanced much past construction of things made of a single material, and the manufacture of a flying machine would require many sorts of raw materials.