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3D Printers Decrease Drone Development Cost

Unmanned aircraft systems (drones) for civilian commercial applications are one of the most exciting disruptive technologies these days. 

With more than 200 of its aircraft already in use, Netherlands-based Aerialtronics is poised to offer systems for applications ranging from infrastructure inspection and mapping to livestock monitoring and creative filming for advertising and marketing.

As a small company with only 35 employees, a major challenge for Aerialtronics is to develop systems that could meet the requirements of a variety of industries without dissipating its resources on dozens of discrete designs.

“We have basically developed a concept that uses a standard platform and is customizable to individual customers and applications,” said Joost Hezemans, Head Designer at Aerialtronics. “The result of our development is the Altura Zenith. Specially tailored options include the number and power of motors, the payload capacity, flight times and variations of required software systems.”

Customized pieces including motor housings, different gimbals, as well as boxes and enclosures for hardware and software – all of which need to be designed and prototyped.

“Developing even these limited variations required many design iterations requiring prototype models,” Hezemans said. “The process was slow and expensive.”

As a result, Aerialtronics explored 3D printing as a solution, and subsequently began outsourcing to service bureaus. However, as some of the models were being made in Asia, each iteration was taking about a month to produce, while also putting a strain on budgets.

With the objective of reducing development times and costs, Aerialtronics sought an in-house solution.  Working closely with Stratasys, the company ultimately built in-house 3D printing operations with a uPrint SE Plus 3D Printer by Stratasys at the core.


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