Warfare is set to get more advanced with 3D-printed drones, self-healing aircraft and a "Transformer" aircraft that can split apart, say scientists at defence giant BAE Systems.
Engineers believe the technology could be in use on military and civil aircraft by 2040 or earlier. They have unveiled four futuristic technologies which could revolutionise warfare, including 3D printers so advanced they could print smaller drones during a mission and rescue single civilians or soldiers from dangerous situations.
The company believes the technologies could create "the ultimate adaptable taskforce" and is working with the British Government, leading aviation experts from universities and other companies to explore what the future of aircraft engineering may be.
The BAE Systems research and development team at Warton, Lancashire, also revealed the Survivor, a lightweight adhesive fluid built inside an aircraft which will allow jets to heal themselves in minutes.
A new long-range aircraft could split into a number of smaller military jets mid-air and be used for a range of activities such as going on the offensive if threatened, being used for surveillance or dropping off supplies.
The smaller jets would join together into a larger aircraft to increase their range and save fuel, before splitting into separate planes so each part carried out its own mission. The jets would join up again into one aircraft to fly home after completing their tasks.
The company also presented a laser weapon that could engage missiles at the speed of light, destroy them and protect the people below.
All four technologies are still on the drawing board but BAE Systems, which invested 117 million ($229 million) in research last year, is confident they can become a reality.