Oct. 4 (UPI) — U.S Marines have tested small 3D-printed drones to demonstrate their flexibility and usefulness to troops in the field.
The testing of the additive-manufactured vehicles, supplied by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, took place late last month at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
“At this point we are focusing on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions,” Eric Spero, a team leader in the vehicle technology directorate of the U.S. Army Research Lab, said in a press release. “We have different cameras such as an infrared and a day camera; there are different things we can do like stream the video to systems or a heads up display and record it for later viewing.”
Unlike systems already in use by the U.S. military, the 3D-produced unmanned aircraft can be quickly manufactured.
A catalogue of drones from researchers enables troops to select an SUAS tailored to fit the needs of their mission, download information on the aircraft, and then 3D-print its parts before constructing the drone — all within 24 hours.
“Basically what we are doing is combining two emerging technologies,” said John Gerdes, a mechanical engineer at the U.S. Army Research Lab. “We have taken 3D printing and quad-copters and created a means of giving troops a customized vehicle right when they need it, with the capabilities they need from it, on demand.”
“These craft are the future because they’re protected by obsolescence. We are able to give troops the technology almost immediately by printing new parts and making slight adjustments so they will always have a craft that is able to complete the mission.”