Technology

The U.S. Army Is Testing 3-D Printed Drone Technology

The U.S. Army Is Testing 3-D Printed Drone Technology
Image credit: Ehang 184

The U.S. Army is currently testing new technology that would enable soldiers to create drones using 3-D printers while out on the battlefield.

The “unmanned aircraft systems” (or UAS) were selected for further experimentation at this year’s Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiments, an annual event in U.S. army conducts a series of technology experiments. Drones made via 3-D printing, which would allow soldiers to print customizable the unmanned aircraft systems based on their mission, were just one of the 50 pieces of tech selected for further testing.  

Related: Scientists Are Training Drones to Find Lost Hikers

Eric Spero, a senior research engineer at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, said his team viewed the convergence of these two cutting-edge technologies as a valuable tool to help support decentralized, small-unit decision-making in challenging situations.

"The concept takes advantage of 3-D printing as a future enabler and positions us, as the U.S. military, to take advantage of increasingly better manufacturing technologies."

Related: What the Heck Are Drones Good For, Anyway?

Despite the potential, tests for the product could be more than a year away as teams collaborate on its creation and development.

"This is not a solution for today," Dr. Mark Valco, director of the Vehicle Technology Directorate, said in a press release. "Innovation is the key. We're demonstrating a capability, but we need to evolve design tools, higher-grade materials and the ability to print faster. Our researchers are continually looking for opportunities to enable these new capabilities."