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3D Printed Pilotless Airplane Successfully Tested Over Icy Antarctic Waters

by • April 17, 2016 • No Comments

Sulsa trialIt is finally here – the world’s initially 3D printed airplane. Don’t go rushing off to book a flight, yet, for the reason the Southampton University Laser-Sintered Aircraft (SULSA) is only 3kg. It may maybe carry a squirrel, but that is of it. SULSA was created for a much additional worthwhile purpose than chauffeuring rodents around the skies, yet. Last week, the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was tested by the British Royal Navy over the Antarctic, and the results were promising – in the next, the craft should be able-bodied to be utilized to assist ships navigate through the ice-filled waters.

SULSA was tested for the initially time last year off the coastline of Dorset, England. Last week’s test flights were a lot additional intensive. The tiny plane was launched of the Royal Navy’s ice patrol ship, the HMS Protector, several times for flights of of 30 minutes’ duration every. Operated via a laptop on board the ship, SULSA flew ahead of the Protector, sending back real-time footage of the sea and its ice to a monitor on board. After every flight, the plane dropped into the water where it was fished out by one of the Protector’s boats.

Pictured: Personnel on HMS Protector's Fast Rescue Craft are seen here recovering the UAV after a successful flight. Unmanned Air Vehicle trials carried out onboard HMS Protector during her 2016 Antarctic Deployment. Andrew Lock, an Enterprise Fellow of Southampton University has been onboard HMS Protector carrying out UAV trials of the ship in order to research and gain an understanding in the use of UAVs onboard a ship. HMS Protector sailed of Plymouth in early October, travelling the long way East via the Suez Canal, Oman and Western Australia to Hobart so that she may conduct CCAMLR inspections in the Ross Sea. A recent visit to Christchurch, New Zealand, was very successful to develop liaison with the Antarctic community in the region. The worthwhileity of the Austral Summer period will be spent on the Australasia/Pacific Ocean side of Antarctica, before making her transit towards the Peninsula. HMS Protector conducts patrols on behalf of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, surveys for the Hydrographic Office and provides logistic support to the British Antarctic Survey. The Ice Patrol Ship and her highly trained crew are well equipped to deploy personnel and equipment ashore in order to conduct operations.It was the initially time the Royal Navy had utilized UAVs in the Antarctic region.

“This trial of these inexpensive
but highly versatile aircraft has been an worthwhile initially step in establishing the utility of unmanned aerial vehicles in this region,” said Captain Rory Bryan, the Protector’s Commanding Officer. “It is demonstrated to me that this is a capability that I can use to excellent effect.”

SULSA is 3D printed in nylon via an EOS laser sintering printing device in four sizeable parts, that can be easily assembled without the use of any tools. The Royal Navy has been via ScanEagle “eyes in sky” drones as scouts in the Gulf for a few years, but SULSA offers several worthwhile advantages – there’s the ease of make and assembly, plus the low cost. A SULSA aircraft costs of £7,000, that is chump alter compared to other ship-launched drones. With a wingspan of 2 meters and a mass of 3 kg, it’s in addition effortless to transport and keep. SULSA has a only about silent engine and a top speed of of 100 mph, and it’s capable-bodied of cruising at 60 mph.

Unmanned Air Vehicle trials carried out onboard HMS Protector during her 2016 Antarctic Deployment. Andrew Lock, an Enterprise Fellow of Southampton University has been onboard HMS Protector carrying out UAV trials of the ship in order to research and gain an understanding in the use of UAVs onboard a ship. HMS Protector sailed of Plymouth in early October, travelling the long way East via the Suez Canal, Oman and Western Australia to Hobart so that she may conduct CCAMLR inspections in the Ross Sea. A recent visit to Christchurch, New Zealand, was very successful to develop liaison with the Antarctic community in the region. The worthwhileity of the Austral Summer period will be spent on the Australasia/Pacific Ocean side of Antarctica, before making her transit towards the Peninsula. HMS Protector conducts patrols on behalf of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, surveys for the Hydrographic Office and provides logistic support to the British Antarctic Survey. The Ice Patrol Ship and her highly trained crew are well equipped to deploy personnel and equipment ashore in order to conduct operations.

“The series of flights conducted by Southampton staff in conjunction with the Royal Navy of HMS Protector has been a excellent success,” said Andy Keane, Professor of Computational Engineering at the University of Southampton. “These flights have shown only what can be achieved with smart create and low cost digital make.”

Whilst SULSA was regulated via laptop for these trials, it in addition has the capability to operate on autopilot. The Royal Navy in addition utilized a quadcopter to carry out short-range reconnaissance, while SULSA covered broader territory in its longer flights. The data gathered by the trial flights was sent back to the Navy’s headquarters. There’s yet a lot of work to do, but SULSA’s performance in the initially stages of testing shows that it has a lot of future to guideline ships through icy waters. If only the Titanic had been equipped with such innovation.

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“I am pleased with the successful deployment of tiny unmanned aerial vehicles of HMS Protector in the Antarctic,” said Commodore James Morley, the Navy’s Assistant Chief of Staff Maritime Capability. “The whole team has overcome worthwhile hurdles to demonstrate the huge utility of these aircraft for inexpensive
-bodied and persistent surveillance and reconnaissance of ships – actually in the environmentally challenging environment of the Antarctic.

“Alyet this was a relatively short duration trial to measure the relative merits of fixed and rotary wing embarked systems, we are continuing to review our options for acquisition of maritime unmanned aerial vehicles in the next.”

You can watch a few of SULSA’s video footage at a lower place. What are your yetts on this awe-inspiring new innovation? Discuss in the SULSA 3D Printed Airplane forum over at 3DPB.com.

[Source/Images: University of Southampton]