Computational fluid dynamics were used to optimize the chosen design for both aerodynamics and manufacturing using FDM. The resulting UAV consists of only nine relatively large, thin-walled parts, which also speeds manufacturing time. (Source: University of Sheffield AMRC)
I agree, Cabe. Although my tech-loving self thinks this is cool, my I-live-in-the-country-for-peace-and-quiet self is horrified at the prospect of these things showing up in my "back yard" (actually a forest), whether for commercial or private use. I'm also horrified at the possibilities for accidents, and the invasion of privacy. OTOH, the QF-4 drone that crashed in Florida is a much larger UAV, a modified F-4 Phantom fighter plane, which was being tested on a military base.
I foresee the FAA coming out with civilian regulations with the amount of drones hitting US airspace. Just look at the recent near miss over Florida last month with an American Airlines flight. Scary to say the least.
Jim, actually the slightly rough texture would reduce drag by creating a very thin turbulant layer next to the body. And a lot of current 3D printed stuff is very smooth, the process is much better than a while back. Many printed parts need no additional treatments.
William, thanks for your comments. I also was impressed at the amount of optimization done on the design. As we note, the first generation is a prototype that's merely a glider, with no onboard functions except comms for radio control. The next generation will have some of the additional stuff mentioned that will let it do autonomous reconnaissance or search-and-rescue missions, like cameras, GPS, fan propulsion systems and data logging devices.
The most impressive portion of the post is that both CFD and mechanical programs were used to optimize the product, followed by optimization for 3D printing for production. The only flaw that I see is that it does not leave much room for improvement in the second generation.
Thanks for the laugh, Liz; I really enjoy your sense of humor. On the serious side, I enjoy writing about UAV and drone technologies, but I must agree--the idea of making them easy to produce makes me nervous considering their potential negative uses.
It's pretty incredible what 3D printing can produce these days. It seems the sky is literally the limit--or not, as this drone shows. Interesting development, but also a bit scary, too, considering some of the destructive things drones are used for.
How 3D printing fits into the digital thread, and the relationship between its uses for prototyping and for manufacturing, was the subject of a talk by Proto Labs' Rich Baker at last week's Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis.
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Although a lot of the excitement about 3D printing and additive manufacturing surrounds its ability to make end-products and functional prototypes, some often ignored applications are the big improvements that can come by using it for tooling, jigs, and fixtures.
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