"Where maybe instead of having vehicles sort of manning the border themselves, you can actually have a person sitting in a pickup truck controlling a whole collection of these UAVs doing border protection," says How.
The ILC team, which designed air bags for the Mars rovers, hopes to aim even higher, sending their inflatable planes on a space mission to Mars. Their compactibility makes them ideal for such a mission, where storage space is very limited.
How says that by the end of the year, their system will be flying ten vehicles simultaneously without any human intervention.
How's research was presented at the 2006 AIAA Guidance, Navigation and Control Conference (Aug. 2006), 2006 AIAA Structures, Structural Dynamics, and Materials Conference (May 2006), and Scientific American magazine (Jan. 2006). His research is funded by Boeing Phantom Works, Department of Defense, and NASA.