Engineers launch a 3D printed unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) from a Royal Navy warship to demonstrate the potential of small, lightweight drones which can be used in a marine environment. Matthew Stock reports.
Catapulted into the air from the bow of a warship; drones like this could soon be 3D printed at sea as a new tool for the navy. It was designed by engineers from the University of Southampton, who were given permission to test it aboard the Royal Navy's HMS Mersey. They wanted to prove that unmanned aerial vehicles like this could be produced cheaply and easily assembled, even while out at sea. After being launched into the air it was flown autonomously on a pre-programmed route for several minutes off the coast of southern England. The airframe was built on a 3D printer that uses a laser to fuse nylon powder into solid structures. The frame consists of just 4 major parts that can be assembled in a matter of minutes without the use of any tools. That speed and convenience could prove invaluable for naval vessels for reconnoissance, and search and rescue missions.