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The Military is no stranger to 3D printing, and so far we’ve seen this demonstrated in concepts for body armor and using the technology to fabricate replacement parts. Now, with the advent of some impressive and innovative unmanned aircraft systems, Army researchers are showing a new level of commitment in their exploration of 3D printing.

At the US Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiments (AEWE) in Fort Benning, engineers from the Army Research Laboratory were invited by the US Army Training and Doctrine Command to launch their new 3D printed unmanned aircraft.

According to 3dprint.com, the on-demand portion of this new invention will be relevant when an Army patrol needs UAV support. At that point, soldiers enter data for requirements into the system. The software of the system processes request and the 3D printed device gets to the hands of those who need it within 24 hours.

Army researchers are already aware of what 3D printing can do and are now showing different ways they are cashing in on the benefits as on-demand items can be made without a middleman, quickly and affordably.

For an object like a drone, 3D printing is beneficial since it allows for production not only of a custom design but also lightweight parts with whatever complex geometries that may be required. While drones today may often be associated with hobbyists and leisure, especially in the 3D printing realm, the creation and launch of ODSUAS drone was no game. Hours of development, testing, and design verification went into this drone innovation before they put it into the air for their peers to see.

“We’ve created a process for converting soldier mission needs into a 3D printed On-Demand Small Unmanned Aircraft System, or ODSUAS, as we’ve been calling it,” said Eric Spero, team leader and project manager.

Along with showing off the drone, they were also able to demonstrate the power of 3D printing in the air and on the ground as they had a machine on site. The researchers used the 3D printing demonstration to make something highly applicable to the soldiers’ work: a holder for small arms, called a Picatinny Rail.

As they continue to refine their 3D printing and improve the drone, Spero says they will continue to offer modifications that will allow for less noise, long standoff distance, heavier payload capacity and better agility. He points out that the heavy payload will be most difficult to achieve. The ultimate goal is to continue making 3D printing accessible for soldiers.