While most of you are aware by now that 3D printing is allowing for huge strides in manufacturing, impacting numerous and important sectors substantially—with standouts like bioprinted complex structures and space rockets, we all know too what happens in the all work and no play scenario. But 3D printing enthusiasts do like to play hard too—and that includes taking to the air with UAVs.
Some of the most dedicated hobbyists in the world are drone enthusiasts, who may have already been active members of the maker community—or have picked up high-tech fabrication techniques along the way to get what they want in creating their specialized aircraft.
Freebird Flight is presenting us all with an accessible drone now in the form of The FreeBird One. Offering greater features, versatility, and strength, the FreeBird One is unique in that it is completely 3D printed in carbon fiber and it is also meant to stand up to brutal weather conditions; in fact, according to the creators, it is the safest, strongest, longest flying, most weather-resistant, and most customizable UAV available today. And if you aren’t impressed enough simply by that mouthful, try this on for size too: The drone is even able to send a direct 3D video feed to your VR headset for precise navigation.
The company, known for developing next-generation commercial UAV technology, has just launched a Kickstarter campaign, in hopes of raising $50,000 by April 28. More bonuses appear here too if you are looking for an early bird deal, with backers who pledge just $300 receiving the entire design as a kit for assembly, with delivery slated for August.
Early birds backing the campaign with $400 receive a complete assembled frame and user guide. And if you want to save 63% off what will be the planned $4,000 retail pricetag, back the campaign and receive the ‘FreeBird One Standard’ with everything you need to fly, including your own battery and remote—this includes motors, motor controllers, propellers, flight controller, integrated power backup/management, auxiliary onboard power supplies, GPS, and USB ground station. Prices for the 3D printed drone ascend as high as $2,600, including other cool features like a wireless ground station.
The use of 3D printing has turned out to be a huge benefit in this new product, not surprisingly—carrying them from concept and development to an actual flying drone that should delight a range of users with varying needs in the UAV industry.
“We initially used 3D printing as a way to rapid prototype our R&D, but as time progressed, our 3D printing techniques and filament materials advanced such that it was clear the best possible airframe at this point is actually a 3D-printed one,” states the team on Kickstarter. “Revising our design to accommodate the various limitations of injection molding would not only result in a less-robust and heavier design, but a much more expensive one as well.”
The company also reaps the most traditional rewards and benefits from this new technology as they are able to customize parts quickly, offer replace parts on demand, make enhancements to existing designs, and offer new materials, all with the greatest perk of all—a lower pricetag.
FreeBird Flight’s mission isn’t just to put out another product, but they are committed to making improvements on the technology currently out there, striving to allow for more expanded focus in design and functionality, increase flight times to as long as 30 minutes, and accelerate speed to as high as 70 mph.
“With regulatory scrutiny starting to intensify, we thought there had to be a way to design a UAV that could be a lot safer, useful for a wide range of applications in all types of weather conditions, affordable–and all of this without sacrificing flight time,” states the company on Kickstarter. “We also wanted to develop a product that would be FAA-friendly with spare capacity to carry necessary communications equipment be integrated into the National Air Space (NAS) as technologies became available.”
Featured highlights are many, to include:
- Enclosed rotors for safety and versatility, providing structural integrity
- Distributed stress absorption, reducing chances for in-flight failure
- Motor mounts doubling as landing pads, saving weight and extending flight time
- Impact resistance, preventing damage if drone bumps into something like a fence or wall
- Ample flat-mounting space for electronics
- Easy custom wiring
And customization is indeed the key to this new drone, allowing you to get started ‘right out of the box’ due to pre-existing threading around the device. Customizations can also be made on request, the team states, once the product is launched for commercial use. If you are interested in customizing the drone overall, you can also buy the SurroundFrame alone, assembled or as a DIY kit. This gives you the latitude to install your own components.
- Flight Time: Up to 30 mins.
- Max Horizontal Speed: Up to 70 mph (50 mph with standard motor/prop configuration).
- Max Vertical Speed: 3,000 feet/min.
- Payload Capacity: Up to 20 pounds (15 pounds with standard motor/prop configuration).
- Safety: Structurally-Enclosed Rotors.
- Virtual Fence.
- Automatic Return to Home with Multiple Failsafe Triggers: Rally points can also be set to give Freebird One other options to land safely if it cannot make it back to the launch location.
- Pause Button.
- Dedicated Motor Shut-Off Switch.
- Redundancy: GPS (2), Accelerometer (2), Gyroscope (2), Compass (2).
- Isolated Power Supply for Flight Electronics
After completing the campaign, they hope to add continued improvements with artificial intelligence, an enhanced user interface, expanded attachments, sensors, and even better safety mechanisms overall.
“With the introduction of the FreeBird One, we hope to spur the industry to raise product safety and performance standards across the board by introducing FAA-friendly products that allow private-sector innovation to continue to flourish,” said Freeman.
Are you thinking about backing this campaign? Are you already a drone enthusiast? Discuss in the FreeBird One 3D Printed Drone forum over at 3DPB.com.