In 1913, Henry Ford created the assembly line for automobiles, this revolution drastically reduced the time it took to manufacture automobiles. The drone industry is hoping to step up their abilities for mass production, much like Mr. Ford. 3D printed drones are showing a lot of promise for manufacturers interested in the ability to produce high quality drones at a large scale. The flexibility 3D printing provides allows companies the ability to enact design changes on the fly. UAVs are also becoming flying printers, 3D printing drones are capable of building and repairing infrastructure. We are only at the beginning of the 3D printed drone revolution, but the practice looks to offer a lot of promise for manufacturers.
Drone manufacturing is progressing at lightning fast speeds. Some designs can be produced and assembled within a day. The efficient manufacturing process is resulting in less waste, with some considering it a more sustainable approach. The industry is enjoying the benefit of easily customizable platforms. The final product is often cheaper and the designs are getting more exciting. Even if drones aren’t wholly 3D manufactured, certain parts may be 3D printed.
Robotic automation allows manufacturers of all products to realize greater productivity. Robots are able to replicate menial tasks to a high degree of accuracy and at a rate that cannot be achieved with a human workforce. Pressure is mounting for the industry to produce cheaper drones at mass scale. Furthermore, the rewards awaiting the winners of lucrative contracts are sure to attract top talent working in the drone field.
Militaries around the world are looking to expand their drone fleets, they are seeking partners within the industry that can meet the highest of expectations. The Pentagon is reportedly looking to spend up to $78M for a Top Secret US drone program. The goal is to create drone swarms under a program called AMASS. The award recipient will need to be capable of producing battlefield ready drones at scale. The success of Kamikaze drones in Ukraine has fostered intense interest in disposable drones.
QinetiQ, a company based in the UK, has designed a 3D printed suicide drone that is intended to be easily deployed by the Ukrainian Military. “Kamikaze drones” are designed to be destroyed during their attack. Their devastating nature has led them to become mainstays in the Ukrainian conflict. These simple drones have changed the nature of the battlefield with their simple, yet effective attacks. The drones are difficult to detect, allowing operators the time necessary to seek out their target before striking.
3D printers mounted to drones provide the ability to literally print out new infrastructures. Teams of these drones could help manufacture the buildings of the future. The idea mimics a swarm of bees working together to build as a team. Increasingly, scientists are looking to nature to design the perfect drones. 3D printing drones could be promising for construction in hazardous and remote locations.
The technology has its drawbacks at the moment. The work needs to be precise and must be closely monitored to ensure no issues arise during construction.
3D printing drones and 3D printed drones will surely continue to find their way Into more and more applications. The industry is attracted to the sustainable nature of the simplified manufacturing process. Enhanced productivity will be needed for manufacturers to meet the high demands of militaries that are salivating for the latest in drone technology. As printers and drones get more complex and useful, it is inevitable that these two technologies will become more intertwined.