May 19, 2015 | By Simon

It’s not surprising these days when unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and 3D printing go hand-in-hand, oftentimes resulting in impressive DIY solutions for a myriad of aerial photo and video gathering purposes.  Whether 3D printing is used to create custom rigs or parts for existing UAVs or to create an entirely standalone UAV design itself, it’s one of the finest examples of how 3D printing can help users develop and produce custom designs quickly and efficiently.  

Among other more recent examples is the Sprite; a portable and rugged drone that’s designed to be used in the great outdoors for backpacking, hiking and other outdoor activities.  

Created by Connecticut-based Ascent AeroSystems - which was founded by three outdoor enthusiasts named Jon, Nate and Peter - the company was founded with almost forty years of experience in aerospace engineering, business and RC modeling between its founders.  Fueled by a collective passion for the outdoors, the trio was inspired to create a unique product that transformed how small UAVs were used - particularly for weight-concisous and space-saving backpackers.  

To arrive at the final design for the first generation of their Sprite UAV, the trio used 3D printing to craft a series of 3D printed prototypes, which were tested for their accuracy and ruggedness, among other factors:  

Initially, the Sprite was developed as a portable drone that could fly above hikers and provide aerial shots of potential obstacles before returning to a user via an autopilot program that’s powered by a built-in GPS.  Over the course of prototyping and testing however, the Sprite has evolved into a much more sophisticated 1080P HD stabilized video recorder that offers first-person perspective, waypoint navigation and a feature that allows the unit to follow a user.  When used in combination with dedicated apps, users even have the option to plot out a desired path for the Sprite via a smart device and use it for mapping a territory, among other features.  

Among other factors that separate the Sprite from other UAVs on the market is its ability to be folded up to literally be thrown into a backpack; while other UAVs feature extremely delicate blades that can be broken off easily, the Sprite’s design allows for the blades to be retracted and are able to be folded alongside its compact body.  

Currently, the trio are looking to take everything they’ve learned from their 3D printed prototype and are preparing to put the design into production - starting with a Kickstarter campaign.  

“We've waited until Sprite™ was really ready before launching our campaign,” said the trio.   

“Everything that you see about Sprite™, including the website, the images and the videos, is 100% genuine and unenhanced. No strings, no wires, no post-processing to remove anything.”

For just $799, interested buyers can get in on the ground floor and be among the first to receive one of the Sprite UAVs in December of 2015 - the expected delivery time.  With a project goal of $200,000, the team has already raised over $39,000 with nearly a month left to go in their campaign.  



Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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Robert Ashton wrote at 3/4/2016 2:48:19 AM:

Hello. I have enjoyed viewing your video of the Sprite and I like much of the Sprites appearance and versatility. I am based in Melbourne, Australia and I have a concept for the development of a specific use drone that is in line with the Sprite design. The Drone would need a couple of specific modified design requirements for the application I have in mind but would retain the slim line attractive look and ruggedness of the Sprite. I would be interested to explore the potential of designing another version of the Sprite in a "joint venture' arrangement if that is of interest to your group. I believe this new "generation" of the Sprite may also add to the versatility and marketability of the Sprite. I have worked in my field for over 40 years and believe there is a real market for a Sprite like drone with an added capability. I would be interested in seeking your response. Thank you for time and good luck with the Sprite. Regards, Robert Ashton

Wil Snitjer. The Netherlands. wrote at 9/4/2015 11:16:40 AM:

Great design! Great future! Best regards from Wil Snitjer. Designer, builder and pilot of the Dutch WISNICOPTER. (coaxal RC helicopter for maximum Acrobatic purposes.)

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