Drones and 3D Printing. They go together like mashed potatoes and gravy. Well maybe not quite as well, but without 3D printers, the entire drone community would certainly be a lot more bland. BAE Systems, a British multinational defense, security and aerospace company has released details on some of their future aircraft technologies. The time table set is approximately 25 years from now, in the year 2040.
The most notable of their future technologies is a 3D printer located on-board an aircraft, that is capable of printing out unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which could be in the form of a self propelled drone, or other drone-like craft. In cases where there is a disaster, or when supplies are needed in a war-like environment, a larger aircraft would be able to send out smaller UAVs in order to obtain information on what type of ‘help’ is needed. Perhaps, this would include rescuing soldiers from a dangerous war zone, dropping food into an area protected by our enemies, or putting out a fire in an area unable to be reached by ground vehicles.
The UAV’s that are sent out would return to the larger aircraft with details of what is needed. A sophisticated 3D printer on-board of that aircraft would then receive engineering data on the types of supporting UAVs that would be required. Perhaps a drone-like UAV capable of airlifting a human being would be needed, or one able to store and disperse water on a fire, or one capable of precisely delivering food, and then self destructing. Whatever is needed, would be loaded into the 3D printer, printed out, and assembled via a comprehensive robotic system on the aircraft.
“You are suddenly not fixed in terms of where you have to manufacture these things,” said BAE’s Mike Murray. “You can manufacture the products and whatever base you want, providing you can get a machine there, which means you can also start to support other platforms such as ships and aircraft carriers.”
These unmanned, 3D printed UAVs would then set out on their mission, without putting any humans in danger. A video example of this can be seen below:
A video example of this can be seen below:
“Of course we don’t know exactly what sorts of aircraft technologies will be used in 2040 with any certainty, but it’s great to be able to show the public some concepts that might be possible through projecting where today’s technology could get to,” explained Nick Colosimo, a Futurist and Engineering Manager within the R&D team. “BAE Systems has a rich heritage in research and development, and our team builds on literally decades of previous R&D work by thousands of scientists and engineers.”
3D Printing will certainly be much more advanced in 25 years from now, so technology like this certainly seems like a real possibility. There will surely be new types of technology that comes along as well, which could render these ideas useless. Only time will tell.
What do you think? Do you expect to see future 3D printers located on-board of aircraft, able to print out UAVs on demand? Discuss in the Futuristic 3D printing of UAV’s forum thread on 3DPB.com