The print-a-drone aircraft carriers of the future?

HMS Mersey is not an impressive warship. The 261-foot River-class OPV is slow, armed with just three guns all under 20mm in caliber, and is tasked primarily with coast guard style missions. However, last week she pulled off something that could revolutionize how drones are used at sea in the next generation.

You see she launched a UAV that was made from 3D printed parts.

FIRST LAUNCH OF 3D PRINTED UMANED AERIAL VEHICLE - 21/7/15 Today, 21st July 2015, a 3D printed Umaned Aerial Vehicle was launched from a Royal Navy warship for the first time. HMS Mersey provided the perfect platform for the University of Southampton to test out their SULSA unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). Weighing 3kg and measuring 1.5m the airframe was created on a 3D printer using laser sintered nylon and catapulted off HMS Mersey into the Wyke Regis Training Facility in Weymouth, before landing on Chesil Beach. The flight, which covered roughly 500 metres, lasted less than few minutes but demonstrated the potential use of small lightweight UAVs, which can be easily launched at sea, in a maritime environment. The aircraft carried a small video camera to record its flight and Southampton researchers monitored the flight from their UAV control van with its on-board video-cameras. Known as Project Triangle the capability demonstration was led by Southampton researchers, making use of the coastal patrol and fisheries protection ship. With a wingspan of nearly 1.5 metres, the UAV being trialled has a cruise speed of 50kts (58mph) but can fly almost silently. The aircraft is printed in four major parts and can be assembled without the use of any tools. MOD Crown Copyright

FIRST LAUNCH OF 3D PRINTED UMANED AERIAL VEHICLE – 21/7/15 Today, 21st July 2015, a 3D printed Umaned Aerial Vehicle was launched from a Royal Navy warship for the first time. HMS Mersey provided the perfect platform for the University of Southampton to test out their SULSA unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). Weighing 3kg and measuring 1.5m the airframe was created on a 3D printer using laser sintered nylon and catapulted off HMS Mersey into the Wyke Regis Training Facility in Weymouth, before landing on Chesil Beach.The flight, which covered roughly 500 metres, lasted less than few minutes but demonstrated the potential use of small lightweight UAVs, which can be easily launched at sea, in a maritime environment. The aircraft carried a small video camera to record its flight and Southampton researchers monitored the flight from their UAV control van with its on-board video-cameras.Known as Project Triangle the capability demonstration was led by Southampton researchers, making use of the coastal patrol and fisheries protection ship.With a wingspan of nearly 1.5 metres, the UAV being trialled has a cruise speed of 50kts (58mph) but can fly almost silently.The aircraft is printed in four major parts and can be assembled without the use of any tools. MOD Crown Copyright

The 7-pound Sulsa with its 5-foot wingspan can make 100 knots and was assembled on the ship with its body and wings made via 3D desktop printer and a prepackaged battery, control electronics, propeller, and motor.

The Sulsa can be printed for just a few thousand dollars, says Jim Scanlan, a professor at Southampton who works on the craft design. He concedes that it can fly for only 40 minutes. But that could be enough for missions such as responding to reports of piracy, where being able to easily check out a vessel from a distance of 10 miles or so is valuable. “If they shoot at it, who cares? You send another one up,” says Scanlan.

He envisages ships putting out to sea carrying printed parts to make up to 50 drones as well as a 3-D printer and the powder feedstock needed to print spares or bespoke vehicles for different missions, which might require different sensors. However, work remains to be done to prove that printing planes at sea makes sense. Printing the parts for a Sulsa takes hours, and existing printers would need to be modified so they could stay level at sea.

More here

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.