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Flying fungus? Decomposable 'bio drone' takes to the skies

If this "biological drone" drone crashes, it can decompose without leaving a trace. "No one would know if you'd spilled some sugar water or if there'd been an airplane there."

This drone is made from fungus, bacteria and non-biological materials. CNASA/Ames

Spore-adically, new drones impress us. Take this "biological drone." It has a fungal body with a protective bacteria covering so it can degrade into the landscape without leaving a trace if it crashes.

This type of drone is perfect for flying over sensitive environments, or better yet, to conceal spying, says Lynn Rothschild of NASA's Ames Research Center, an adviser for the student team that created it.

"No one would know if you'd spilled some sugar water or if there'd been an airplane there," she told New Scientist.

The body of the prototype drone is made from the vegetative part of fungi called mycelium. The drone is covered in sheets of lab-grown bacteria.

"Coating the sheets are proteins cloned from the saliva of paper wasps -- usually used to waterproof their nests," New Scientist reported. "Circuits were printed in silver nanoparticle ink, in an effort to make the device as biodegradable as possible."

The bio-drone made its first flight earlier this month at the iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition) student synthetic-biology competition in Boston.

New York-based company Ecovative Design, which also makes wine packaging from sustainable materials, helped mold the fungi material into the shape of the bio-drone.

While the bio-drone is made from unusual stuff, it also has non-biological parts that do not easily disintegrate (yet at least) such as controls, RC quadcopter propellers and a standard battery. The team, however, plans to make everything, including the sensors, biodegradable.