“Other composite processes could enable multifunctional robotic platforms that could build protective barriers on site from indigenous materials such as sand or cement, deploy filters for water purification, or autonomously deploy energy harvesting devices manufactured from composite materials for small or temporary wind farms and solar collectors,” says Shawn Walsh, a researcher with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.

Before such robots can become a reality, however, there’s more work to be done. “As new robotic enabled capabilities are invented and use composites, they may need new and unique manufacturing processes that don’t currently exist, or that require radical modification,” Walsh says.