The 3D-printed UAS in flight and the designers and pilot pictured with the UAS.When a couple of engineers wanted to build an unmanned aerial system (UAS), they didn’t let their lack of aeronautics degrees or project funding stop them. SelectTech Geospatial’s Frank Beafore and Beth Galang started making airplanes on their Dimension 3D Printer. After eight months of trial-and-error refinements, the pair made a breakthrough in the drone world by flying the first 3D-printed airframe to take off on its own power. Not bad for a side project.

“We’re just a couple of bachelor-degreed engineers with design experience that love to rise to a challenge,” Beafore said. I suspect it was also great fun; one lesson came when a taxi test was too successful and the drone took to the air, necessitating a forced landing that broke the nose cone. The team reinforced the part, and when the official first flight came, takeoff and landing went beautifully.

Fused Deposition Modeling made this rapid discovery process possible. According to Beafore, introducing a new UAS was secondary to showing STG’s clients that a complex product can developed without the overhead of computer simulation and wind-tunnel testing. “Our success proves that this rapid-response method is ideal for sophisticated products,” he said.

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