Monster Machines: The Razor UAV Only Costs $US800 To Print

Our multi-million dollar fleets of Predators and Reaper drones are quickly becoming the exception rather than the rule. As UAV technology continues its breakneck advance, the cost of producing even high-performance ISR drones is plummeting. This new UAV, for example, is so inexpensive and quick to create that it's practically disposable.

Dubbed the Razor by its creators at the University of Virginia, this 800g, 120cm wide flying wing is powered by a single prop and controlled with nothing more than an Android tablet — which communicates with an onboard 4G Nexus 5 "brain" — from up to 1.6km. It can also plot its own autonomous course using GPS.

The current iteration is capable of hoisting another 680g worth of surveillance gear for up to 45 minutes and airspeeds reaching 60km/h. Earlier prototypes could notch 190km/h but those sorts of speeds drained its power reserves too quickly — even with the drone's ability to hot-swap fresh power packs.

The DoD-funded project has been in development for three years and is currently testing its third prototype: a nine-piece flyer constructed from interlocking ABS plastic components. Producing all nine pieces takes 31 hours on a commercial 3D printer at a total cost of $US800 — throw in the tablet and other support gear and you're up to $US2500, though that's still way cheaper than what you could build them for conventionally.

They're so inexpensive, in fact, that the idea is to simply print each one out as the situation dictates. Minor design tweaks can modify the vehicle's handling, speed, and size and a new unit created in just over a day. And if you crash one into a tree or Somali warlords shoot it down, who cares? You'll have a new one sooner than Amazon could Prime ship it to you. [UVA via Wired]


Comments

    Are these guys trying to re-invent the wheel?

    Auto-pilot, GPS controlled routes and telemetry control of UAVs can already be done for less than half the price using a simple, proven airframe developed by the hobby community, off-the-shelf electronics and telemetry (again created by the open source community), and a standard laptop.

    The rapid prototyping is interesting for development, but ultimately not very viable for wide deployment. $800 for just the airframe is not cheap at all, and 31 hours is not fast. It's much more cost effective to print a "plug" of the final design and build the airframes in bulk using casting etc.

    Either the DoD has too much money and likes to waste it, or there's a lot to this project that they're not telling us.

    I wonder how long till you become a terrorist because you looked at this link?

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