ENG_logo_newThe unmanned aerial vehicle, the UAV, is also commonly known as the drone. While these originally were thought to be rather dubious government issued aircraft, that reputation has mostly been put to rest as everyone started getting in on the fun. Today they are often the handiwork of talented hobbyists—many of whom are also quite adept at 3D printing and find it very useful in the creation of many different and smaller remote controlled systems. Now, those worlds are merging as a group of students have created their own drone with NASA in mind, hoping to facilitate research, development and the future of UAVs in space for the government agency.

This certainly isn’t the first time we’ve seen 3D printing helping to accelerate space travel, or being used to make 3D printed drones of all sizes, shapes, and for a wide range of applications, many serious, and some just for fun. For mechanical engineering students at Louisiana Tech University, creating a 3D printed UAV was probably a welcome mixture of challenge and quite a bit of enjoyment, as they worked on a very important—and perhaps historical, even—task in fabricating a vehicle for NASA to study and be able to use in lower altitude space travel.

The space vehicle, meant to serve as a ‘senior capstone project,’ isn’t just 3D printed and space ready but it was also made to be eco-friendly by the team of students: Justin Coe, Colin Dunbar, Keunta Epps, and Joseph Hagensee.

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Dr. Arden Moore

The four-person team was motivated to do their best in helping the space program along, and they did their homework when it came to research and development, according to Dr. Arden Moore, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and molecular science and nanotechnology at Louisiana Tech’s Institute for Micromanufacturing.

“A large part of our success was due to our ability to make complex parts using three-dimensional printing, which we were able to do thanks to our program’s computer modeling classes and Louisiana Tech’s openly accessible 3D printers,” Hagensee said.

The project, sponsored by a Louisiana Space Consortium sub-award from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) grant, was indeed completed successfully, and Dr. Moore was very impressed by his team of young engineers, remarking on their level of skill in both designing and then making the completely functioning UAV, as well as performing all the initial legwork and then manipulating all of the necessary equipment.

“They showed sound engineering judgment throughout the project, and I think the final product exceeded expectations,” Moore said.

According to the students, much of their engineering acumen and resourcefulness exhibited in the project was thanks to the superior education they are receiving within the engineering department, where teamwork and experiential education are emphasized.

“The project-based curriculum at Louisiana Tech showed us how to apply what we have learned, to create a successful design,” Dunbar said.

And certainly few projects could compete with a successful design for NASA. The students were obviously very happy with the results, and definitely awarded a great deal of credit to the positive experience they are all having at Louisiana Tech.

“Learning to work in groups is a staple throughout the engineering curriculum at Tech,” Epps said. “This experience taught us to work as a cohesive unit, which was a major key to the success in this project.”

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From left to right: Joseph Hagensee, Colin Dunbar, Keunta Epps and Justin Coe. (Photo: La. Tech)

Dr. Moore, in his supervisory capacity, was certainly not forgotten in being given kudos either, lauded for expert advise and mentorship in the project:

“Dr. Moore was the best advisor we could have asked for,” Coe said. “He has a lot to do with the success of the project.”

The 3D printed UAV will be presented by the students on Friday, May 6, at the Louisiana Tech College of Engineering and Science Senior Projects Conference. Louisiana Tech is actually a space-grant college, allowing them to dedicate specialized efforts to space research. Do you think this will be helpful for an agency like NASA? Discuss in the 3D Printed UAV forum over at 3DPB.com.

[Source: The News Star]
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