3D printing gives manufacturers the power to create parts that cannot be built cost-effectively with other processes. In this video, Mark Kirby, manager of additive manufacturing at Renishaw Canada, shows off a special project for a North American aerospace customer: the Firefly, a 3D printed titanium rocket-powered drone that can fly at nearly supersonic speeds, with onboard telemetry and a spring-released wing.
Watch the video to see why additive manufacturing techniques were the best choice for this one-of-a-kind vehicle.
As Kirby described it, in the unmanned aircraft space, if you plot speed vs. weight, then the lower left corner is where you’ll find small quadcopter drones; the upper right, ballistic missiles. But the upper left corner, very low weight with extreme speed, is empty. This device, when it becomes operational, will truly be one of a kind.
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According to Kirby, one possible application of Firefly could be launching a sensor-laden model into a hurricane to collect data. Due to Firefly’s low weight and compact form factor, perhaps the drone could even be launched from a Mars rover to survey long distances.
What other applications can you think of for a device that resembles a titanium hoagie travelling 600 miles per hour? Let us know in the comments below.