Mar 31, 2016 | By Tess

Just a couple months ago, we covered a story about inventor Roger Freeman and his impressive 3D printed FreeBird One UAV model, which (as our readers will remember) was used to efficiently clear snow out of his driveway and to blow dead leaves from his lawn. For those impressed with the robust 3D printed UAV model and its practical applications, you will be pleased to hear that Freeman has recently launched a Kickstarter campaign for his drone, through which he hopes to make his product commercially available.

Freeman, a Connecticut based maker and inventor, became interested in creating his own model of drone when he, like many others, crashed and broke a drone he had bought within minutes of flying it. Realizing he could not only 3D print his own replacement parts for the drone he had bought, but even develop his own, superior model of drone, Freeman got to work. Now, after two years of hard work, the maker and his company FreeBird Flight, have introduced the two products being featured through their crowdfunding campaign: the patent-pending SurroundFrame, and the FreeBird One.

The SurroundFrame, a 3D printed carbon fiber frame measuring 3 feet in diameter, was developed for a number of reasons, as Freeman saw his design as a way to improve on a number of issues existing in other UAV models. Firstly, the 3D printed frame was developed to add a level of safety to the FreeBird One unseen in many other drone models by enclosing its rotors, which also helps the drone be impact resistant (meaning it won’t fall apart when it bumps into a fence or surface). The frame has also provided structural integrity to the drone’s design as it distributes stress from the motors and from in-air turbulence throughout the structure. Additionally, the SurroundFrame’s four motor mounts not only double as landing pads, but are connected at 12 points to the frame itself, which Freeman points out, will reduce “the chance of in-flight failure from a fractured arm.”

Addtionally, the 3D printed SurroundFrame comes equipped with weather protected bays with robust threading to allow for customized electronics mounting either above or below the structure. Fortunately for makers interested in purchasing the FreeBird One, the SurroundFrame can also be customized, and FreeBird Flights will even offer custom built-in customizations once the product is commercially launched. If part of your frame becomes damaged or breaks, .STL files for replacement parts will also be made available to customers who can either 3D print the parts themselves or order them from FreeBird Flight.

The FreeBird One, for its part, consists of the SurroundFrame equipped with its electronic components system. The system design, which is made from optimal motors, controllers, flight computer, and battery, offers its users a weather-proofed, fast, and long flying UAV capable of carrying up to 20 lbs. Some of its performance features include up to 30 minutes of flight time, a max horizontal speed of up to 70 mph, and a max vertical speed of 3,000 feet/min. In terms of safety, the FreeBird One is equipped with an automatic “return to home” system, a pause button, a virtual fence, several redundancies, a dedicated motor shut-off switch, and an isolated power supply for flight electronics. For its usage, the drone is also equipped with the option of fully autonomous flight, as well as a number of flight modes and profiles, including simple, loiter, circle, follow-me, etc.

In terms of its user interface, the FreeBird One 3D printed UAV boasts a flexible interface compatible with smartphones, tablets, PCs or Macs. Additionally, the UAV can be connected to a number of controllers (or even many controllers), and offers the option of a 3D live video feed, which can be fed into a VR headset.

Freeman, who has dedicated himself to creating a superior model of UAV in terms of function, design, and safety explains where he hopes his FreeBird One drone will fit in to the UAV market: “UAV technology is evolving rapidly, and quickly moving beyond the hobby and aerial video markets, into areas such as construction and public safety. With that growth comes important responsibility for both those who operate them and those who develop and manufacture them. That's why we're thrilled to offer the safest airframe technology with our structurally enclosed SurroundFrame."

3D printing has also played a critical role in the development of the drone, as the technology has been used to manufacture the final parts of the product, and during its design allowed Freeman to quickly prototype and alter parts, to experiment with various materials, and to produce everything locally.

The Kickstarter, launched March 29 and which will run to the end of April, has already raised  over $20,950 of its $50,000 goal. Currently, there are some remaining super early bird specials for the FreeBird One UAV, meaning you could purchase one for the reasonable cost of $1,500 (to give an idea, the drones will likely retail for around $4,000). Of course, if you don’t want to shell out thousands of dollars, FreeBird Flight is also offering small rewards, like a miniature 3D printed FreeBird One for $50, or an unassembled SurroundFrame for $300. The expected delivery of the drones is August 2016.

If the Kickstarter campaign is successful, FreeBird Flight is hoping to gain extra feedback from its backers to make the drone commercial ready. Once their Kickstarter campaign rewards are fulfilled the company has also said it will continue working on building its platform in a number of ways, including improving its SurroundFrame, increasing safety, enhancing the user interface, and further integrating sensors, attachments, and AI.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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