Jun 7, 2016 | By Alec

3D printed drones are very popular within the 3D printing community, as they are low-cost and extremely fun toys that can be easily fixed with 3D printed spare parts after that inevitable crash landing. But many drone users actually use far more expensive and (semi-)professional UAVs that are packed with sensors for aerial imaging and research purposes. Singapore-based startup O'Qualia has now successfully combined the best of both those worlds in the Captor UAS: a high quality aerial imaging drone with a 3D printed body, which is far easier to repair or alter in-house than conventionally-made competitors. Perfect for professional users.

In a nutshell, the Captor UAS combines the  low prices of 3D printing with the world of top level aerial imaging – where hardware is one of the biggest expenses. As O'Qualia explained, the drone has been designed to be modular in nature – enabling users to adapt and expand on their vehicle without costly investments. The Captor UAS is thus, in some ways, future proof.

Sony WX350 18MP camera and cartridge delivered with the Captor (All images: O'Qualia)

The concept is the result of extensive market research performed by O'Qualia. They have been working with small business owners, government institutions and communities of UAS enthusiasts since May 2015, and have been trying their best to anticipate all use-case scenarios and challenges faced during aerial imaging.

As the O'Qualia Head of Product Innovation Elias Moseer explained, you could almost call this new drone the aerial equivalent of a Dremel power tool (known for its many add-ons and accessories that are easily installed). “Captor is the platform to build a high level of familiarity with drones and at the same time it evolves as one's demands grow. Just as various parts can be rotated and added to a Dremel to expand on its functionality and usage, Captor empowers each user to dictate how far or fast the product can be diversified to address different needs as they happen,” Moseer said. “It will be phenomenal to imagine what our end users can do or add to the plate, and we have already progressed this far based on these insights and will continue to evolve.”

Battery pack.

But the Captor is also completely professional in its design. Consisting of four aerodynamic and streamlined sections, each component has been segregated as much as possible to ensure the highest level of resilience. If parts do break, replacements can be 3D printed by users themselves (STL files are supplied) or ordered through O'Qualia at very low rates.

All parts are also easily assembled or disassembled, enabling users to make alterations in the field to respond to encountered environments. “3D printing enables us to create a highly scalable and customizable platform. Captor the 3D printed drone is designed to adapt to the way you work,” they say. The airframe and the payload cartridges are made from ABS, with the battery brick body being molded in Polycarbonate. The Captor also features a carbon composite propeller.

Assembly itself relies on a series of stringently precise clicking mechanisms, and the airframe and payload compartment are also durably secured. This also goes for the sensors. “With aerial imaging sensors becoming smaller and more advanced every day, one should not be tied to a particular sensor, but should be able to experiment and exchange sensors easily without needing to overhaul complete systems or be sensor integrator experts,” Moseer adds. Most modern sensors can be installed on the Captor, making it suitable for crop scouting, site surveying, monitoring and a lot more.

The O'Qualia team has also performed a larger number of stress tests on their drone, including the application of blunt and short distance momentum force to all parts – demonstrating their resilience during a crash. As they revealed, the key to those high-strength properties are skin design and the internal frames, all of which have been inspired by 3D printing techniques. The result is a structure that is light enough to strain the power source as little as possible, while it can still withstand a lot of force.

These features – and the 3D printed nature of the parts – make this a very interesting option for high-end drone users. They will also be happy to learn that the Captor is also far larger than your average 3D printed drone, featuring a wingspan of 800 mm, but remains very lightweight at just 600 grams. It can also carry a payload of up to 500 grams, which is more than most conventional drones are capable of. But if this isn’t big enough for you, the Captor XV with a 2-meter wingspan is forthcoming.

If you’re interested in this remarkable drone, it’s now available for preorder. O'Qualia is currently collaborating with leading local 3D printing service providers to extend their affordable reprinting services to an international level, and should make the drone available soon. A limited number of pre-orders can now be made for just $2750, with regular prices starting at $5000 (or higher, depending on the configuration). For more information, check out the O'Qualia website here.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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