New system for on-demand 3D printed drones

Photo: Angie DePuydt

Engineers from the Army Research Laboratory flight have recently tested 3-D-printed unmanned aircraft created with a new on-demand system. The demonstration, which was part of the Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiments, or AEWE, at Fort Benning, Georgia, showcased new technology designed to provide Soldiers in the field with rapid unmanned aerial vehicle support.

“We’ve created a process for converting Soldier mission needs into a 3-D printed on-demand small unmanned aircraft system, or ODSUAS, as we’ve been calling it,” explained Eric Spero, team leader and project manager.

The system allows Soldiers requiring unmanned aerial vehicle support to input their requirements into mission planning software and then receive a 3-D-printed aerial vehicle within 24 hours. “We thought they’re not going to think that’s fast enough,” Spero added. “[but] the timeline … fits right in line with the way they plan and execute their missions.”

The engineers said they felt the combination of 3-D printing and unmanned aerial vehicles made for a natural technology solution.

Based on the feedback engineers received from Army leaders, Spero said, his team plans to work on improving noise reduction, standoff distance, and agility, as well as increasing the 3-D-printed drone’s payload capacity. The Army engineers say they will continue to collaborate with partners at the Georgia Tech’s Aerospace Systems Design Lab as they refine technologies for future Soldiers.