The US Army is conducting a test to investigate whether it is feasible to design and 3D print highly specific drone designs for specific missions.
Drones are not new to the US Army – or many other armies for that matter – but this is something I haven’t seen before: mission specific drone designs.
Previously on Fabbaloo I wrote of how the US Army was dropping mobile container-sized fabrication labs to see if they could quickly produce parts and gear onsite using 3D printing and other fabrication methods. Now it seems they are going a bit further and developing designs “on the fly”, too.
This experiment is part of their “Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiments”, which attempts to identify new applications of technology in live events. This event is to take place in early 2017, and is called “On-Demand Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems”. It’s a combination of two popular technologies, drones and 3D printing that leverage and complement each other.
From what I can see, it appears they are designing a kind of modular system in which a standard drone structure can be produced, but with adaptors to attach equipment of interest to specific missions. The idea is to have an inventory of different kinds of sensors or other elements that can be combined and integrated into the drone on demand. You could, if desired, print a new form of drone for each mission.
This approach definitely leverages the ability of 3D printing to produce custom, one-off parts easily. They’ve found a way to capitalize on 3D printing in the same way that forward-looking manufacturers have done in their environments.
For now though, this is merely an experiment. While it may succeed or fail, we do know that 3D printing capabilities will continue to increase in speed and quality, making the feasibility of this approach more likely as time passes.
Via US Army