July 15, 2015 | By Alec

While new, exciting and unusual applications of 3D printing technology seem to be developed on an almost weekly basis, poaching prevention is not exactly something you’d automatically think of. And yet that is exactly what one Texan inventor has created as an entry into the 2015 Hackaday Prize competition. Toby Lankford has developed a 3D printed, solar powered RC plane filled with cameras that can detect poachers over large distances. It’s name? Project Icarus.

While the Hackaday competition is usually home to very interesting and innovating developments, few are as laudable as this anti-poaching system. As the Texan inventor explains, he wanted to emphasize that drones can play an important social and environmental role in society too. ‘Poaching is an issue that presented itself as the most urgent. We are at extreme risk of driving Rhino’s and Elephants into extinction in this decade. There are fewer than 5000 Black Rhino’s left in the wild. They are being poached at rate of over 1,000 per year. Elephants are losing their lives for their ivory at over 30,000 per year. It is a problem seeking an immediate solution,’ he writes on his Hackaday page. ‘We hope that we can be part of that answer with our anti-poaching cloud swarm UAV system.’

Lankford himself is no strange to innovative high tech solutions for day to day problems. ‘I am farmer/ inventor in Amarillo, TX. I work with groups all over the country to cultivate local food production and distribution systems. I work with civilian UAS and ground robotics across several fields from survey to anti-poaching. We lived completely off grid for over three years and our hackerspace and all we develop is off grid as well,’ he writes.

And this project is definitely a reflection of that. While previously entered into the Hackaday competition in 2014, it has since been improved tremendously. And yet, its goals are fairly straightforward: a bush plane that can fly up to 200 km with a 6kg payload. While that doesn’t sound so remarkable, the plane consists of a lightweight 3D printed frame, is powered by solar cells and will become completely automated. It can be fully controlled from a single ground control center (theoretically, one person can be in charge of a fleet), and can be monitored from any place on the planet – perfect for catching poachers on a limited budget.

This remarkable entry also weighs less than 5 kg, keeping it well in the field of hobby RC drones, but much more capable. What’s more, its 3D printed body means this plane is easily modified, and as you can see in the introductory clip below, the Icarus 3.0 can be given almost any size. And being 3D printed into a single piece with the hinges already in place, it is also quite a durable UAV. ‘The airframe is a proven long range plane that is capable of multiple mission payload and power setups,’ Toby explains. This basic frame will be posted on Thingiverse here, enabling others to improve and use the design for themselves.

To house all the camera system, Toby has also integrated a brushless gimbal system capable of holding cameras up to 150 grams. ‘It stays perfectly stable no matter how extreme the tilt and roll axis are affected by wind or other forces. The gimbal with everything is less than 3.5 inches in diameter. It works well withing an inexpensive and easily replaceable 4 inch clear dome. We are able to use high end camera modules for thermal, multispectral, and visible light images and video,’ he explains. The entire thing is also only powered by 3 Odroids, South Korean microcomputers somewhat comparable to the Arduino.

While we come across a lot of 3D printed drones, we’ve never seen one capable of playing such an enormously important environmental role before. That alone makes it well worth checking out, though a vote for the Hackaday Competition 2015 is also definitely welcome.



Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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hayden loffler wrote at 10/20/2017 5:57:42 PM:

i am very interested in this drone could you tell me where and who to buy it from

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