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University of Southampton engineers test 3D printed aircraft

Published: Tuesday, 04 August 2015   Category: All Graduate Jobs News

Engineers from the University of Southampton have successful tested the capabilities of an unmanned aircraft, created entirely via the use of a 3D printer.

The SULSA unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was launched from Royal Navy Warship HMS Mersey and landed on a Dorset beach a matter of minutes later.

The test showcases the possibilities of using 3D printers to engineer various equipment and members of the research team believe it will help transform thinking within the world of engineering.

Measuring 1.5 metres across, the airframe was created using laser sintered nylon and weighs only 3kg. After being catapulted from HMS Mersey it was controlled from a van while on-board cameras recorded every second of its route before touchdown on Chesil Beach.

The trial – known as Project Triangle – was used to demonstrate how easily a UAV could be launched at sea within a maritime environment.

Professor Andy Keane, from Engineering and the Environment at the University of Southampton, said the department believes the use of 3D printed nylon has “advanced design thinking in the UAV community world-wide”.

The world’s first entirely ‘printed’ aircraft was flown by University of Southampton engineers in 2011, back when project SULSA was initially developed.

The UAV can cruise at a speed of nearly 60mph and is close to being silent when in flight. It is comprised of four main 3D printed parts which can be assembled without the need for tools.

Overseeing the demonstration was Commander Bow Wheaton, the Royal Navy’s Commander of Maritime Capability (Aviation).

He suggested that the organisation has a high interest in the systems being created and said the Royal Navy was delighted to be able to assist with the research.

First Sea Lord Admiral Sir George Zambellas, said the test provided a “small glimpse into the innovation and forward thinking” that is being adopted by the Royal Navy.

“Radical advanced in capability often start with small steps,” he added, before suggesting that the new simple systems could quickly replace more complex ones should they perform well.

Grad Plus has a range of electrical engineering graduate jobs which could provide opportunities for those looking for a career in the sector

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