Military Planes Of The Future: Made Of Skin?

Military planes covered in a type of skin could become commonplace in the future if a British defense company finds success in its work.

That’s right — a military plane could be covered in skin, but not just any skin. This will not be some aircraft that resembles a big bird or a pterodactyl flapping at high speed through airspace.

According to, the skin is actually many thousands of micro-sensors placed on the exterior of the plane. The micro-sensors would be able to work in a similar way to human skin and sense damage, temperature, and even wind speed.

The smart skin could be the size of particles of dust and be sprayed onto military planes. The skin would be able to monitor the planes continuously without the need for as many ground inspections, and parts could be replaced efficiently to increase the speed of aircraft maintenance, according to the website of the defense company, BAE Systems.

Scientist Lydiea Hyde initially thought of the idea when she realized that her dryer uses sensors to prevent itself from overheating.

“Observing how a simple sensor can be used to stop a domestic appliance overheating got me thinking about how this could be applied to my work and how we could replace bulky, expensive senors with cheap, miniature, multifunctional ones,” Hyde explained.

Hyde believes that the technology may not be limited to military planes.

“This in turn led to the idea that aircraft, or indeed cars and ships, could be covered by thousands of these motes creating a ‘smart skin’ that can sense the world around them and monitor their condition by detecting stress, heat or damage.”

So exactly how would the skin sensors work in conjunction with the vehicles? The smart skin would house its own power source and could communicate with military planes, cars, or other vehicles like humans receptors do with the human brain, according to They will be designed to essentially “feel” in the same way that animals and people feel and gauge their surroundings.

BAE Systems
Scientists are working on sensors to be applied to vehicles that can "feel" just like human skin.

The ongoing research into the smart skin for military planes is just a sample of what scientists are working on to improve technology for aircraft.

The smart skin technology isn’t just for use in military planes and vehicles; scientists are considering the possibility of using them in natural disaster situations to sense minute changes as a pre-warning system.

[Images via BAE Systems]