Researchers said they found the combination of 3D printing and UAVs to be a natural technology solution.
Engineers from the US Army Research Laboratory have produced a 3D-printed drone which could help advance the completion of missions carried out by American soldiers.
The US Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) invited the group of engineers to Fort Benning, Georgia to present their innovation at the Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiments (AEWE).
Soldiers were present as the engineers showcased the capabilities of the unmanned aircraft systems which were created on demand for specific missions. The process allows soldiers to convert their mission needs into a 3D-printed drone system. With this concept, once a patrol requires unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) support, soldiers input the requirements into the mission planning software. The system can then digest the information, configure the aerial vehicle and it is printed and delivered within 24 hours.
“We (originally) thought they’re not going to think that’s fast enough,” said Eric Spero, Team Lead, US Army Research Laboratory. “But actually, it was the opposite. They said ‘this is actually good because when we get our mission plan, we have about 24 to 48 hours to plan our missions. So the timeline of 24 hours to receive a mission custom UAS fits right in line with the way we plan and execute our missions.’”
Researchers said they found the combination of 3D printing and UAVs to be a natural technology solution. The combination of the two will allow servicemen to save time when going about their daily duties.
“Drones or quadcopters are really getting big now, I mean in particular just the commercial and hobby markets have shown what can be done with a small amount of money,” said John Gerdes, Engineer, US Army Research Laboratory. “Simultaneously, additive manufacturing has also become huge and everybody knows all the great things that can be done with 3D printers. So we figured let’s assemble these two technologies and provide a solution to soldiers that need something right now and don’t want to wait for it.”
The army engineers are now looking to improve their innovations after receiving feedback from the soldiers. Aiming to focus on low-noise, long stand-off distance, heavier payload capacity and better agility, Spero believes most of these improvements are achievable. To complete this next set of research, the group are to collaborate with the Georgia Tech’s Aerospace Systems Design Lab.