The benefits of drones in efforts at disaster relief are well documented. The democratic nature of 3D printing and the growing numbers of people who have been educated, either self or through programs, means that more people than ever can contribute to the creation of such disaster relief vehicles. Such is the case with a new drone designed by Yuki Ogasawara and Ryo Kumeda, the two members of Team ROK whose memories of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake inspired them to create their latest life-saving drone, which they have named X VEIN.
The earthquake, the most powerful ever recorded in Japan, and the fourth most powerful in the world since the beginning of modern recording techniques, also caused enormous tsunamis, towering at heights of up to 133 feet that traveled as far as 12 miles inland. The death toll was staggering. Nearly 16,000 people were killed and a further 2,500 missing. The World Bank estimated that this was the costliest natural disaster in history and the impacts on the Japanese national conscience can still be felt. Being able to deploy disaster relief drones in areas that have been affected by catastrophes such as this could significantly aid in search and rescue and reconnaissance missions, both helping increase the numbers of survivors and diminishing the risk to rescuers.
In order for the drones to be useful in disaster areas, they must live up to very exacting specifications – this is no area for consumer grade toys. One particularly important factor in creating a drone that can be used under these types of conditions is its weight. Team member Ogasawara, responsible for the mechanical design elements of their new drone, explained:
“There are many reasons existing drones are not used in disaster-hit areas, including their lack of safety features, their size and weight, and the low potential for customization. For a drone to hover in midair, the lift it generates must exactly match its own weight. Variations of even 5 percent of overall weight change how operators must control the drone. It [was] crucial that we make our drone as light as possible.”
The duo was able to create just such a lightweight vehicle by using generative design, a technology Autodesk is building up as a strong future building block, to create an infill with specific size and weight requirements that could then be 3D printed using services from iJet. The lattice density was adjusted using Autodesk Within software in order to fit the design bill. In addition, the pair was also given access to the kinds of specialized tools that made the overall design possible; Ogasawara continued:
“The design had a lot of free-form curves, which are hard to translate from sketches to a 3D model. Through Wacom, we were given access to a Cintiq pen display tablet. Using it to build up a model in Autodesk Fusion 360 with input based on our sketches made it possible to follow our design while smoothly re-creating it in 3D space.”
Because of Japanese laws requiring that drones remain within sight of their operators, the range of the X VEIN drone is about 300 feet, with images that can be viewed in real time. The drone is also capable of carrying thermographic and infrared-imaging equipment that could be used to locate survivors. The pair also hopes that the design could lend itself to modification for other specific applications, their ultimate goal being that of “working to become engineers that bring people happiness,” whatever form that might take. Discuss in the 3D Printed Drone forum at 3DPB.com.[Source: Autodesk Redshift / Images: Team ROK]