3D-printed UAV launched from Royal Navy warship

A 3D-printed unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) has successfully launched off a Royal Navy warship and conducted a test flight, before landing on a beach in Dorset.

The UAV, built by researchers at the University of Southampton, flew 500m through the Wyke Regis Training Facility in Weymouth, before landing on Chesil Beach.

After watching the demonstration, Commander Bow Wheaton, the Royal Navy's Commander Maritime Capability (Aviation), said: "The Royal Navy's Maritime Capability organisation is very interested in conceptual applications of unmanned and highly automated systems. We were delighted to assist the University of Southampton with development of its 3D-printed unmanned air vehicle and provide a ship for an embarked launch."

The drone has a wingspan of 1.5m, with a total weight of 3kg and can hit speeds of 58mph despite being almost completely silent. The UAV is printed in four major components but it can be assembled without the use of any tools.

Professor Andy Keane, of the University of Southampton, said: "The key to increased use of UAVs is the simple production of low cost and rugged airframes - we believe our pioneering use of 3D-printed nylon has advanced design thinking in the UAV community world-wide."

The demonstration flight was known as  Project Triangle and made use of coastal patrol and fisheries protection ship HMS Mersey after First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir George Zambellas championed the Navy’s involvement in the initiative.

Admiral Zambellas, said of the launch: "Radical advances in capability often start with small steps. The launch of a 3D-printed aircraft from HMS Mersey is a small glimpse into the innovation and forward thinking that is now embedded in our Navy's approach. It's well known that our first squadron of remotely piloted aircraft have proven their worth in the Gulf, providing persistent airborne surveillance across huge areas of sea."

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