Jan 22, 2016 | By Andre

In late 2013, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos brought tech news to its feet after announcing Amazon Prime Air, a package delivery service dependent entirely on unmanned delivery drones. Fast forward to today and the service is still being developed from a technical standpoint, but also struggling through legal/safety hurdles that would allow the drones to fly commercially. Beyond these challenges lies a parcel maximum weight of less than 2.3 kg per flight. To my distress, that right there really limits my ability to order ten spools of 3D printer filament using the service.

Well, it appears drone related research done by the Department of Informatics at the University of Oslo is doing all that it can to increase drone payload capacity; if only for the reason of breaking a Guinness World Record. With the creation of the Megakopter, they have successfully lifted 61 kg (not including the weight of the craft itself) for a grand total of 37 seconds at last year’s Cutting Edge Festival in Norway.

To make it all possible, the team, led by self-proclaimed “full-time drone maker” Henning Pedersen required 18-months to build the multicopter. And in an effort to keep things lightweight, aluminum and plywood was used for the frame while 48 propellers separated into eight groups allowed the drone to lift off. The electronics - specifically radio transmitters, accelerometers and gyros - were necessary for stabilization reasons and were sourced on the cheap from an electronics hobby shop.

Just as with many drone projects in the works around the world today, 3D Printing was used to manufacture the black cone found in the middle of the main body using durable ABS plastic and an Ultimaker 2 3D Printer. While only that one component was 3D printed, team member Krister Borge hints it’s likely additional 3D Printed parts will be used to improve the design for future revisions.

For the record-breaking flight, two team members piloted the vehicle’s rotors via wireless remote-control with much precision and care. I can only imagine the combination of stress and excitement felt by the team and the rows of interested onlookers. And if everything already described wasn’t challenging enough, the team only had five attempts to get things right (due to the drone’s limited battery capacity). Fortunately, after two failed attempts, the record breaking flight took place on the third to the thrill of everyone in attendance.

Now that the team has accomplished what they’d set out to do, they’re hoping to continue by breaking their own record down the road, but also some day lift a person. Although, as Krister Borge noted to me, they would still need approval from the Norwegian Civil Aviation Authority before any such flight could be attempted.

In the end, the record breaking flight is likely years away from having any significant commercial appeal. But the way I see it, if the team of makers continue along the path they’ve already charted for themselves, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos might one day come knocking for tips. I mean, how else would they be able to fulfill my 3D Printer filament order in half-an-hour or less?



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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