World’s fastest 3D printed drone lifts off at Dubai Airshow
Mike McLeodGeneral Aerospace Stratasys unmanned aerial vehicle
Aurora Flight Sciences' jet-powered UAV, 3D printed by Stratasys, reaches 150mph.
At the Dubai Airshow this week, Aurora Flight Sciences unveiled what may be the world’s fastest 3D printed unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). Produced in partnership with Stratasys, the jet-powered drone is 80 percent composed from 3D printed parts using lightweight build materials that help it top 150mph.
“A primary goal for us was to show the aerospace industry just how quickly you can go from designing to building to flying a 3D printed jet-powered aircraft,” said Dan Campbell, Aerospace Research Engineer at Aurora Flight Sciences. “To the best of our knowledge, this is the largest, fastest, and most complex 3D printed UAV ever produced.”
Best known for its large-scale world-record endurance setting drone, the Orion, the unmanned aircraft firm’s latest creation sports a 3m (9ft.) wingspan but weighs only 15kg (33lb.). According to Stratasys, the high-speed UAV’s lightweight is due to it’s unique combination of additive manufacturing technologies.
For example, all the UAV’s large and structural elements were 3D printed using the FDM process and build materials, including ULTEM 9085 resin, which meets flame, smoke, and toxicity requirements set by the FAA. In addition, the UAV sports a fuel tank laser sinter from nylon and a thrust vectoring exhaust nozzle 3D printed in metal to withstand extreme heat.
“Whether by air, water or on land, lightweight vehicles use less fuel,” said Scott Sevcik, Aerospace & Defense Senior Business Development Manager, Vertical Solutions at Stratasys. “This enables companies to lower operational costs, as well as reduce environmental impact. In addition, using only the exact material needed for production is expected to reduce acquisition cost by eliminating waste and reducing scrap and recycling costs.”