A team made up of Ivy League students has built a drone from organic mushroom materials that can bio-degrade rapidly. The students from Brown, Spelman, and Stanford also say that in situations like space travel, where transportation of materials is always difficult, astronauts would simply need to bring a small sample of the necessary bacteria or fungus that would then grow into the drone’s shell upon arriving at its destination.

Using a material called mycelium, the researchers have waterproofed the drone with the same protein that wasps use for their nests, creating a fully functional drone that is bio-degradable in all but a few aspects such as it’s motor and circuit board which are printed from silver. They believe this will be more important as drones are used in hard-to-reach or dangerous situations like wildfires or nuclear disaster areas. If a crash or malfunction occurs, a special enzyme that rapidly turns the drone into a harmless puddle of sugar is released.

The students have also bio-engineered the drone’s cells to withstand high temperatures and radiation which could help in their loftiest goal, using the drones for space exploration. Once perfected, explorers might be using the drone as they survey Mars.

With NASA making headway on a manned spacecraft for Mars missions, this research might be just in time.

(Photo: Team Stanford/Brown/Spellman)