A project nine months in the making culminated with an exciting feat earlier this week, as the world’s first 3D-printed drone took to the skies and hit record speeds of up to 150 MPH. Virginia-based manufacturer Aurora Flight Sciences is the company behind the craft, which they say is the first Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) in the world to be jet-powered and built using 80% 3D-printed parts.
The term “drone” is used loosely in this case to descrube Aurora’s UAV, as it always is these days with quadcopters, But this 3D-printed aircraft is indeed an impressive feat nevertheless. Aurora Flight Sciences took to the Dubai Airshow to debut its work.
“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.”
Aurora Flight Sciences says build time was cut in half by using 3D printing technology from Stratasys. Aurora used a special material from Strarasys called ULTEM, which that meets the flame, smoke, and toxicity requirements set by the FAA. Beyond its capability of being formed using a 3D printing process, ULTEM is also strong and lightweight, making it ideal for aerospace applications. This particular unmanned craft has a large wingspan of 9 feet, but it weights only 33 lbs.
Here’s a video of the Aurora Flight Science UAV in action: