3D Printed Surveillance Drone Takes Flight

3D Printed Surveillance Drone Takes Flight

3d printing, drone, aircraft, europe, france, belgium, uk, coast, drugs European Coast Guards are about to get a new weapon in their fight against drug-smugglers; a 3D printed UAV.

Named 2Seas, for the two bodies of water it will patrol (the North Sea and English Channel), the 1.5 meter long, gas driven plane represents the next generation of coastal surveillance.  Designed at the University of Southhampton by aeronautical engineers Jim Scalan and Andy Keane, 2Seas was created to search for drug runners along the coasts of the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium and France.

Built around a highly efficient gas engine the 2Seas is capable of flying surveillance missions for 5 hours while only consuming 7 liters of fuel. As it cruises along the northern coast of Europe, 2Seas will be capable of reaching top speeds of around 100km/h.

3d printing, drone, aircraft, europe, france, belgium, uk, coast, drugs Although the 2Seas is an awesome 3D printed design, it’s not entirely original.  It’s based upon the world’s first 3D printed drone, the Southampton University Laser Sintered Aircraft (SULSA). While the 1 meter wing span SULSA was a completely 3D printed aircraft, the 2Seas’ 4 meter wingspan required it to be outfitted with carbon fiber wings and a tail. Never the less, the 2Seas’ main wing box, fuel tank and engine mounting were all 3D printed.

As of this writing, the 2Seas has passed a number of rigorous flight tests including some that forced the craft to endure difficult weather conditions. In the coming months 2Seas will venture out for more tests that focus on carrying a payload. According to Jeff Scanlan “If those trials go well this UAV could go into initial service in 2015 or even earlier”.

In the meantime I imagine 3D printer manufacturers will continue to create printers with larger build volumes, and one day drones as large as the 2Seas might be printed in their entirety.  

Image and Video Courtesy of 2Seas and New Scientist