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US Army Research Lab Working With the Marine Corps on Mission-Specific 3D-Printed Drones

Industrial Photonics
Apr 2018
Researchers at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) are working with the Marine Corps to develop 3D-printed drones as materials science, aviation technology and software development merge to deliver new capabilities.

Lance Cpl Nicholas Hettinga, 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, prepares to pilot a 3-D printed unmanned aircraft system, or drone, during a Sept. 27, 2017, test flight at Camp Lejeune, N.C. Courtesy of David McNally, US Army.
Lance Cpl Nicholas Hettinga, 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, prepares to pilot a 3D-printed unmanned aircraft system, or drone, during a Sept. 27, 2017, test flight at Camp Lejeune, N.C. Courtesy of David McNally, U.S. Army.

"Several years ago when we were collaborating with our academic partner Georgia Tech, we had this project where we were focusing on design engineering of small unmanned aircraft systems," said Eric Spero, a team lead within the laboratory's Vehicle Technology Directorate.

Additive manufacturing is a viable way to produce mission-essential parts or equipment at the point of need, said ARL engineer Larry Holmes Jr.

"We have interacted with Marines who have never touched an unmanned system before to Marines who are experts in unmanned aerial flight," Holmes said. "Across the board, they all seemed to be very interested in the topic of being able to manufacture a tool that they can use that was mission specific and has a turnaround."

Turnaround time can be anywhere from minutes to hours. Researchers said they plan to streamline their processes based on feedback received from the Marines in order to enable unprecedented situational awareness.

"Things like additive manufacturing with materials, artificial intelligence and machine learning, unmanned systems technologies, these will enable us to bring together the capabilities that will allow the future Soldiers and Marines the decisive edge that they need in the battlefield," said Elias Rigas, a division chief in ARL's Vehicle Technology Directorate.

Businessresearch and developmentU.S. Armyresearch laboratoryMarine Corps3d printingadditive manufacturingdronesunmanned aircraftAmericasBusiness News

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