ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md., Jan. 6 (UPI) -- An unmanned aerial vehicle created through on-demand 3D-printing technology has been flight tested by engineers from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory.
The demonstration flight took place at Fort Benning, Ga., last month, the Army said, and was part of the Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiments program to showcase new technology.
"We've created a process for converting soldier mission needs into a 3-D printed on-demand small unmanned aircraft system, or ODSUAS, as we've been calling it," said Eric Spero, team leader and project manager.
The ODSUAS system allows soldiers requiring unmanned aerial vehicle support to input their requirements into mission planning software. They then receive a 3D-printed aerial vehicle within 24 hours.
The drone features a 3D-printed shell and propeller arms. Its motor and propellers are off-the-shelf equipment.
The speed of the aircraft is as much as 55 miles per hour.
"Everybody knows all the great things that can be done with 3-D printers," said John Gerdes, an engineer on the project. "So we figured let's assemble these two new technologies and provide a solution to soldiers that need something right now."
Engineers said the additive manufacturing technology is not just for drones but also for the manufacture of functional equipment parts.
"This isn't just about [unmanned aerial systems]," Spero said. "It's about forward-deployed, 3-D printing to help the soldier."
Army engineers have been collaborating with Georgia Tech's Aerospace Systems Design Lab on the project. Work will continue on improving noise reduction, standoff distance, and agility, as well as increasing the 3D-printed drone's payload capacity.