Photo by: Lonneke Tubbing, WWD Ambassador
Earlier this year, Computer Science major Salina Servantez made headlines after 3D printing a drone for an assignment. Her project was impressive as it was not simply a model, rather an actual functioning drone capable of flight. It took some time, but she pulled it off, but could You, the average drone enthusiast, do the same? This led me to wonder: Could Anyone with access to a 3D printer print out their own drone? After researching the subject, I got my answer: Yeah, if you have the time and patience.
For those of you who are unfamiliar, 3D printing is an amazing technology that is steadily becoming more accessible, but it can be time consuming. In university, a small model of our school mascot took about 30 minutes to print and preparing to print can be an extremely involved process. There's the type of filament you want your object to be, you can customize the design and change the density of the filament to determine the strength. Working with 3D printers is also not an exact science. Trial and error will most likely be involved as you struggle to make parts fit, redesign, crash during fly tests, and reprint.
With that in mind, you can imagine that this whole process might take a while, but that should not deter you. Having access to a 3D printer is a great asset if you’re a beginner or just prone to crashing. While you may not have the time and patience to print and build an entire drone, at your own convenience, you can design (or download a design) and print replacement parts for your homemade and preexisting drones. It may be a worthy investment if you already own a 3D printer. You can print any part of a drone except for the electrical components which can be bought separately.
3D printing has many variables and it takes time to get it right. Even Servantez said that her first flight barely made it off the ground. There are DIY drone guides available on the internet, so don’t go into it blind. If you’re interested in 3D printing, check out other people’s designs on thingiverse.com, an archive of digital designs. Thingiverse already has listings for drone parts and quadcopter designs available for free.
I am a writer and an artist based in Georgia. Specializing in illustration, graphic design, and video art, I love to explore the new ways technology intersects with art. I think drones have done amazing things for photography and video art, making what would previously be costly and difficult more accessible. As a complete novice, it was only recently that I saw what independent artists could do with their drones, and I continue to be impressed by the sights that drones are able to explore and the images they can capture.