Probably two of the most exciting and transformative technologies of our day are drones and 3D printing. Both promise to change the way economies function, businesses operate, and governments interact. Where these two technologies converge we have already seen tremendous innovation, leading to applications which would never have been imaginable just a few years ago.
One company called Krossblade Aerospace Systems has reached out and informed us about their new UAV/drone which has relied heavily on end-use 3D printed components for its production. This isn’t just any typical drone, however. In fact it’s modeled after the company’s 5-seat hybrid 300 mph vertical-take off and landing concept vehicle, called SkyCruiser, which was unveiled last year.
As a means to test the concepts behind the manned SkyCruiser vehicle, Krossblade Aerospace Systems decided to create a smaller UAV/drone model of the aircraft called SkyProwler, and in doing so has turned to Kickstarter (the launch of the campaign is imminent) in order to help fund the project.
“We use the small unmanned SkyProwler to develop the concepts underlying SkyCruiser and have also found it to be an excellent unmanned aerial vehicle, not only for various applications, but also to get people excited about aviation and technology,” explained co-founder and CEO of Krossblade Aerospace Systems, Daniel Lubrich, to 3DPrint.com.
The SkyProwler drone is able to vertically take off in a similar fashion as many of the multi-rotor drones we have seen in the past, but once it reaches a cruising altitude is able to achieve tremendous speeds, surpassing 83 mph, which are nearly impossible for traditional multi-rotor drones. This is because the SkyProwler is part traditional drone, part remote control airplane. Once a cruising altitude is reached, the drone transforms into an airplane, no longer relying on the rotors to keep it airborne as well as moving forward. Instead the rotors can be used only to propel the aircraft, equating to rapid speeds.
What’s even more impressive, however, is the fact that many of the components within the SkyProwler are 3D printed. Namely, the module which can snap and slide onto many aftermarket cameras like the GoPro. This module is 3D printed and can be customized for different cameras. Additionally Lubrich explained the other important areas in which 3D printing is being used for this aircraft.
“3D printed parts are crucial for the adaptability of the aircraft to different sensing equipment,” Lubrich explained. “Not shown, because more hidden, parts of the transformation mechanism of the aircraft are 3D printed as well.”
The company is using both Up+2 and MakerBot Replicator printers to fabricate all sorts of components including the slide/snap attachment mechanisms for various sensor packages as well as some of the components within internal switchblade transformation mechanism system.
“3D printing is an essential tool not only when prototyping (where it literally does wonders and cuts design time way down), but also in production of even mid-sized batches. To us it is now an indispensable technology,” continued Lubrich.
Lubrich also tells us that the files for the various components will likely be made available to the public for download in the event that replacement parts are required. The company is seeking funding of $100,000 via crowdfunding and offering drones starting at just $449, and going up to $1,429 for the fully fledged 4K version with live video downlink.
Let us know if you have backed this project and what your thoughts are on Krossblade Aerospace Systems’ ambitions to eventually produce the 5-seat SkyCruiser are. Discuss in the SkyProwler forum thread on 3DPB.com. For additional details check out the video of the SkyProwler provided below: