5 Next-Level 3D Printed Drones That Are Pushing the Industry Forward

As the applications of drones varies and grows, it becomes more and more important to develop specific designs that are based on its particular function. A drone built for delivery requires different specifications than a drone built for surveying or image capture. 3D printing is driving this evolution of drone technology by providing access to affordable rapid prototyping and customization and allowing faster innovation to occur. Whether it’s for disaster relief, mapping, or carrying heavy payloads, a drone can better serve its function with the time and cost efficiency and attention to detail that 3D printing provides.

Here are 5 drone projects that have pushed the
boundaries with the help of 3D printing:

Relief X VEIN Drone by Team ROK

After the Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami brought disaster on a massive scale in 2011, Yuki Ogasawara and Ryo Kumeda of Team ROK were inspired to create a drone built especially for disaster relief and search and rescue. A few years later they used 3D printing and generative design to create their x-shaped X VEIN drone . Because disaster aid presents its own specific set of challenges, the team used 3D printing to be able to customize their drone based on their exact needs.

The design features freeform curves, and a 3D printed lattice-patterned body for maintaining minimal weight while still giving it the strength required to operate in difficult conditions. X VEIN is able to fly within a 500 meter range and can be equipped with thermographic and infrared-imaging and capture images that can be viewed in real time to access remote or obstructed areas and help locate survivors. Because many of its parts are 3D printed, if they are damaged on a mission they can be re-printed and replaced on site. 3D Printing was a crucial tool to be able to have the level of design freedom necessary to build a drone with these specific needs and it ensures that the drone can be further customized in the future depending on the situation at hand.

by KU Leuven Researchers

Built to deliver payloads over long distances, KU Leuven research team created the 3D printed CargoCopter , a hybrid drone that combines fixed wings and multi-rotors so that it can take off vertically, hover and then fly horizontally. It was designed to expand the range and speed of traditional multi-rotor drones and thanks to its hybrid nature can efficiently transition from take-off to long-distance flight. It can carry up to 5kg, has a range of 60km and can fly up to 100km/hour. The team used 3D printing to rapidly prototype over 3 years to arrive at this model and their designs were able to quickly evolve. Thanks to the customization flexibility of 3D printing they are able to optimize each new CargoCopter design based on the needs of its particular mission.

Submarine Drone by Blue Robotics