3D printed UAV launched from warship

Written by: Tom Austin-Morgan | Published:

HMS Mersey provided the platform for the University of Southampton to test out their SULSA unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). Weighing 3kg and a wingspan of 1.5m the airframe was created on a 3D printer using laser sintered nylon and catapulted off HMS Mersey into the Wyke Regis Training Facility in Weymouth, before landing on Chesil Beach.

The flight, which covered roughly 500 metres, lasted less than few minutes but demonstrated the potential use of small lightweight UAVs, which can be launched at sea. The aircraft carried a small video camera to record its flight. The UAV has a cruising speed of 58mph and can fly almost silently, it is printed in four major parts and can be assembled without the use of any tools.

Professor Andy Keane, from Engineering and the Environment at the University of Southampton, said: "The key to increased use of UAVs is the simple production of low cost and rugged airframes – we believe our pioneering use of 3D printed nylon has advanced design thinking in the UAV community world-wide."

First Sea Lord Admiral Sir George Zambellas has championed the Navy's involvement with Project Triangle, which resulted in the opportunity to provide a maritime platform for the test flight.

"It's well known that our first squadron of remotely piloted aircraft have proven their worth in the Gulf, providing persistent airborne surveillance across huge areas of sea," Adm Zambellas said. "We are after more and greater capability in this field which delivers huge value for money. And, because it's new technology, with young people behind it, we're having fun doing it."

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