A University of Southampton team, under a project for the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom, have built and launched an entirely 3D printed unmanned air vehicle (UAV) from a navy ship.
Produced under the institution’s Project Triangle, the Southampton University Laser Sintered Aircraft (SULSA) UAV was launched via catapult from the patrol vessel HMS Mersey, and flew over the Wyke Regis training facility near Weymouth in the south of the country to land on Chesil beach. The 5min sortie covered a range of some 500m, with the UAV carrying a small video payload to record the mission so that operators could monitor it during the flight.
SULSA measures 150cm (59in) and weighs 3kg (6.6lb), and is made via 3D printing using laser sintered nylon. The university claims that SULSA is the world’s first UAV made entirely via the technique. It consists of four separately manufactured main parts that are assembled without the need for any additional tools.
The specific achievement here is interesting, but its significance in illustrating the growing use of unmanned drones and 3D printing is more important. Very soon, a large percentage of everything we own will be built with 3D printing technology, lowering the cost while making construction easier. As for drones, they carry both positive and negative possibilities.