Drones 3D-Printed And Deployed Within 24 Hours

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Within just 22.5 hours, the US Air Force managed to design, assemble, and deploy six 3D-printed autonomous drones.

The innovative method was developed by the Air Force Center for Strategy and Technology’s Blue Horizons mission. The team reportedly focused on rapidly adapting small UASs, their technology, and payloads to suit various needs and environments. Blue Horizons fellow Col. Dustin Thomas states: “Small UASs are becoming a new war fighting capability. However, the Air Force can’t rapidly change these aircraft based on the threat environment or quickly use new technologies to meet the needs of a specific mission. Our project aims to find ways to change that.”

According to Interesting Engineering, Blue Horizons’ Black Phoenix crew partnered with Titan Dynamics – a small aerospace company known for quickly and affordably designing UAS. The collaborators then utilized Titan’s automated design software to quickly generate an aerodynamic UAS body and inputted the design code into 3D printers to produce the lightweight UAS components. The team then assembles the printed parts into the customized UAS tailored to its mission requirements.

After initial and partially successful tests back in March, the team sought help from the Air Force Chief Data and AI office’s Autonomy Data and AI Experimentation proving ground to speed up development and experimentation.

Team member Thomas reports that the Eglin base is aiming to establish a space for rapid testing of small UASs and new technological capabilities.  During their time on base, the Black Phoenix team conducted tests on six autonomous aircraft using the rapid create, build, fly method for diverse missions, which included deploying an eight-pound personnel recovery UAS tasked with delivering supplies to a simulated Airman behind enemy lines.

Black Phoenix member Lt. Col. Peter Dyrud explains that they have “taken big risks this week in flying so many new aircraft for the first time, but the risk is also low because these entire aircraft are built from commercial off-the-shelf items, so the financial investment is small.” Indeed, sometimes the aircraft flew well, and other times they crashed – all of these experiences helped Black Phoenix evaluate the feasibility of quickly made UASs.

This information was provided by Interesting Engineering.