Whether it’s helping find survivors in natural disasters or giving critical intelligence to the military during armed conflict, 3D printing can now produce just the drone that is needed for any situation within a matter of hours.

A few months ago Virginia Tech hosted a 3D printing challenge that had students designing and building 3D printed drones. It was co-sponsored by Robotic Research and the Department of Homeland Security, and they were obviously happy with the results because Robotic Research is showing off two small 3D printed drone designs that bear quite a resemblance to the parameters of the Virginia Tech challenge.

The first of the two drones was the TOSR, or the Throwable Orientation Switching Robot, which is designed to be compact, fast and durable. The body would be printed from a styrene material and is shaped like a cylinder with two durable wheels, also 3D printed, on each side. The drone is designed to carry a camera and wireless transmitter but is easily customizable in the field for a variety of environments and terrain.

The second is the RAPTR, or the Remote Aerial Payload Transport Robot. This six-rotor drone is designed to carry emergency medical equipment into dangerous areas only accessible via the air. The body of it is also easily adaptable to carrying different payloads.

There can be hysteria surrounding drones and possible military applications. However, drones can be used in some remarkably innovative and positive ways, such as being used to help find survivors during and after natural disasters and even to patrol our animal reserves and national parks.