A 3D Printed Aerial Drone

Drones come in many shapes and sizes, but now they can also be 3d printed! To make these drones, the [Decode] group used a selective laser sintering process which is pretty interesting in itself. Once the printing process is done, these little planes are built with only five structural and aerodynamic components. Because of their simplicity, these drones can reportedly be assembled and ready to fly with no tools in only ten minutes!

This design was done by the [Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council] at the University of Southampton in the UK by a group of students. Besides this particular plane, they concentrate their efforts on building autonomous drones under 20 Kilograms. Using a 3D sintering process with this design allowed them to make this plane how they wanted, regardless of the ease of machining the parts.

This group has several videos of their planes on their website to download, but check after the break for an embedded video of the [Newscientist] piece about their project.

21 thoughts on “A 3D Printed Aerial Drone

  1. I just want to point out that this was made on an EOS laser sintering 3d printer. Which uses an inert atmosphere, lasers and powdered plastic. A reprap or makerbot cannot do this.

    1. While the size is quite large for a reprap/makerbot. I see no reason why this could not be done with a different 3D printer. Seeing the quality of the Ultimaker (posted down below) I don’t see any reason why this couldn’t be done with it. It might need a bit of sanding, but that’s about it. The size would be the biggest problem, but the 1M in height Ultimaker that I noticed somewhere should have no trouble in printing the wings I think.

      I’m thinking about getting a Ultimaker, and I have build and flown soar planes. So I might prove you wrong one day ;-)

      1. The reason this could not be done on a 3D printer like the reprap, etc. is the type of printing. SLS and other powder based additive processes have less need for unwanted support structures than deposit based (ala FDM) or liquid based additive processes. This makes a difference in the amount of post-printing cleanup in areas that are meant to be hollow, but becomes a nightmare or downright impossible for intermeshed parts like the rudders and alierons (sp?) where there really isn’t room to put a tool in there and post-process.

        You could print a different drone using FDM or photo-hardening resin but not THIS drone.

      2. It’s quite standard to cut out the control surfaces after final ‘production’. Also, the need for support structures is limited to almost none I think if you produce in a vertical direction (so produce the center of the wings at z=0 and the tip at z=’highest point’.

        Oh, yes. I meant you could print a different type, not exactly this model. It would be a challenge, but a fun one :)

      3. I do not think the resolution of the T-o-M or ultimaker would be adequate, nor the plastics light enough. I’ve built repraps, a Cupcake, four T-o-Ms, and played with an “UP!” printer, and while they can do some amazing stuff, this drone would take a huge amount o revision to be extrudable.

  2. Not to knock you self-proclaimed etymology experts off your thrones, but irregardless is a word according to several dictionaries.

    It is listed in the Oxford dictionary, in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as well as in the Random House dictionary. It may be listed as a ‘nonstandard’ or ‘informal’ word, but it is listed all the same. To be listed in a dictionary makes something a word, does it not?

    Language is not static, it is dynamic. As more people use the word incorrectly it becomes more engrained into American English. Fifty years ago “email” and “web site” were nonsense words which are now part of the world vernacular. Things change.

    Quit being nitpicky assholes. You all know what he meant.

    3D printing aerial drones is great, I love it!

  3. At first impression, coming off of the launch ramp it looked like a WWII V-1 Buzzbomb. Kinda sounded like it too on my laptop.
    I like the process of printing out the pieces and snapping them together. I can see a market for ‘blueprints’ for other real world models of planes for sale.
    Having made several balsa and tissue models when I was a kid and then onto fabric covered wings and shrink wrap – I think the plastic design is a logical next step.
    A plastic grinder to recycle bad designs (or crashes) would put this in the ‘green’ catagory for me…

  4. I’m surprised no has yet mentioned the elliptical wing/airfoil lifted from the Spitfire, Britain’s classic WW2 fighter. The ruddevators look like they’re from a deHavilland.

  5. Another amazing project ruined on this website by the grammar Nazis. Kudos to the team who made this drone, excellent example of the future of manufacturing. Shame about the trolls though – can you not start filtering by IP address or something?

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