Technology Transfer SSC Pacific
Flexible Self-Erecting Wing that Supports Printed Electronics

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The U.S. Navy seeks partners to mature and commercialize this patented, early-stage technology. Collaboration opportunities exist in rapidly-deployable tactical sensor-net frameworks, distributed antenna arrays, micro fuel cells, and meta-materials.


Small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) (also known as micro air vehicles, or MAVs) are promising tools for a variety of military and commercial applications. Some small UAVs have flexible wings and are light weight, making them back packable and easy to deploy, but lack in extended communications and battery life. To enhance communications and battery life without sacrificing weight and deploy-ability, inventors at SSC Pacific have conceptualized a flexible wing that incorporates electronics, sensors, and fuel cells, and can self-erect upon receiving thermal stimuli.

The Concept

The concept covers a wing made of a flexible dielectric substrate, providing surface area for flexible printed circuitry and micro fuel cell components. Flexible printed circuitry such as microstrip patch or printed antennas enhance transmitter/receiver and network capabilities with minimal added space and weight. Micro fuel cells have the potential of increasing battery life by 10 times compared to lithium-ion batteries. Bonded to the substrate is a layer of shape memory polymer, enabling the wing to self-erect when thermally stimulated. Ultimately, the inventors envision a  low-cost, throw-away wing made of an expendable meta-material, effectively making the wing a replaceable battery and sensor component.


  • Incorporate phased systems and multiple sensor systems on a single flexible wing structure
  • Enable network capabilities and sensor-net frameworks among an array of small, back-packable UAVs/MAVs
  • Extend communications and increase UAV/MAV flight distance and time
  • Explore how emerging 3D printing techniques could be leveraged to build prototype wing
  • Development Status

  • U.S. Patent issued: 8,201,773
  • DoD Series 5000 TRL 2: Technology concept and/or application formed
  • Publications

  • Semi-autonomous micro robot control and video relay through Internet and Iridium networks. RoboComm 2007.
  • Interoperable Open-Source Sensor-Net Frameworks with Sensor-Package Workbench Capabilities: Motivation, Survey of Resources, and Exploratory Results. International Command and Control Research and Technology Symposium, 22-24 June 2010.
  • Also see related U.S. Patent 8091461: System for water-based launch of an unmanned aerial vehicle
  • For more information on technology transfer, please contact us at (619) 5535118 or email       
    SD 1154, June 2013. SSC Pacific, San Diego, CA 921525001. Approved for public release; distribution is unlimited.

    SSC Pacific
    Updated: 7/3/2013 9:47 AM EST   Published