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CES 2017 Drone Rodeo, 3D printed drones and Amazon’s Drone ‘Death Star’

The pre-CES 2017 Drone Rodeo event took place yesterday allowing eager drone enthusiasts to get first-hand experience with drones and drone flying. In related news we take a look at an Amazon patent for a drone-releasing flying warehouse and how the American Military are looking at 3D printing small drones. We finish the round-up of drone news with a look at how one Maker is using 3D printing to make an UAV.

The UVify Draco drone. Photo via TechCrunch.
The UVify Draco drone which can reach up to 100mph. Photo via TechCrunch.

Taking place in Boulder City just outside Las Vegas and with a Nevada Desert backdrop the drone event was definitely a success. One prominent drone company that featured at the event were UVify who had their own UVify racecourse which was used for a time trial competition using any of the number of drones at the event. UVify are an American company who have been working with Sculpteo in order to perfect their drone offerings through 3D printed prototypes.

American Research Laboratory Drone 

U.S. Army Research Laboratory engineer John Gerdes at Fort Benning, Georgia. Photo via U.S. Army by Angie DePuydt.
U.S. Army Research Laboratory engineer John Gerdes at Fort Benning, Georgia. Photo via U.S. Army by Angie DePuydt.

Drones are being tipped as the ‘hot new thing’ as we move into 2017 and it seems that 3D printing can play a large role in the adoption of the small flying aircraft. The United States Research Laboratory are currently exploring the use of 3D printing to create mission specific aircraft on demand. John Gerdes, an engineer working on the project, spoke about how 3D printing has enabled the project,

Additive manufacturing or 3-D printing has become huge and everybody knows all the great things that can be done with 3-D printers. So we figured let’s assemble these two new technologies and provide a solution to Soldiers that need something right now and don’t want to wait for it.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a flying warehouse…

While Amazon have been impressing, and perhaps scaring, everyone with their latest ‘Prime Air’ drone developments; they might just be getting even more impressive (or scary). Amazon have filed a patent for a Death Star-esque airship to deliver drones from the sky. 

Could this be the start of Amazon's Imperial Empire. Image via @JoshuaBaker on Twitter.
Could this be the start of Amazon’s Imperial Empire? Image via @JoshuaBaker on Twitter.

Despite being likened to the Death Star from Star Wars, the patent gives the more marketable name of an ‘Airborne Fulfillment Center’ (AFC) to accompany their now slightly boring ground-based fulfillment centers which have recently completed their first ever drone delivery in Cambridge, England. The patent describes a ship 40,000 ft in the sky, full of unmanned aircraft which can then be deployed to deliver items to consumers using little power only to guide the aircraft horizontally as it descends. The patent also describes the use of ‘shuttles’ to transport inventory, fuel and even workers to and from the AFC. 

3D printing drones at home

It is not just the military who are looking towards 3D printing to create drones. At the Maker level 3D printing is being used to create micro drones. John Gerdes, when speaking regarding the ARL drones, says “the commercial and hobby markets have shown what can be done with a small amount of money.” One such maker who is doing just that is Austin Neathery, otherwise known as NeatherBot, he has used 3D printing to create a micro quad capable of reaching remarkable ranges of 800m.

Austin's 3D printed MK X Micro Quadcopter. Photo via NeatherBot on facebook.
Austin’s 3D printed MK X Micro Quadcopter. Photo via NeatherBot on facebook.

Showcasing his 3D printed MK X frame, Neatherbot has also posted a video on his YouTube account which shows the drone being flown around his family’s ranch in first person view (FPV). Austin Neathery will be releasing the designs of his 3D printed drone on his MyMiniFactory page soon so stay tuned.

Nominate your favorite drone related technology in the 1st Annual 3D Printing Industry Awards.

Featured image shows the impressive backdrop of The Aerodrome location for Drone Rodeo. Photo via CGTN America.