The drones are coming, and 3D printing is making them cheap and maybe even disposable.
Engineers at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom have developed a prototype 1.5-m-wide unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) made of thermoplastic by means of fused deposition modeling (FDM) technology. The UAV has already completed a test flight as a glider, as shown in the video below. The engineers said the polymer craft could form the basis of cheap and potentially disposable UAVs that could be built and deployed in remote situations within as little as 24 hours.
The project, led by engineers at the university's Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), chose FDM over stereolithography and selective laser sintering to build the airframe because of the lower initial investment, material cost, and simplified process, according to a press release posted on the AMRC website.