Three 3-D printed drones designed by Chris Green and manufactured by The University Of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre’s (AMRC) Design and Prototyping Group (DPG) are now on display as part of the British Design Museum in London’s annual ‘Designers in Residence’ show. Green’s exhibit ‘Aerial Futures’ explores creative uses for drones and the ways drone technology could become commonplace over the next ten years.

Green first discovered the DPG through the Knowledge Transfer Network, which had recently visited the design, prototyping and testing center at the AMRC. The AMRC center is responsible for designing the world’s first fused deposition modelled (FDM) acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) flying wing. The group also has experience designing, manufacturing and flight testing a prototype drone airframe made with an ABS-carbon fiber composite. For those reasons, Green saw the AMRC as an ideal fit for his vision.

Each 3-D printed drone had a different, non-militaristic “urban application.” One was designed to be a personal home companion, another would serve as an autonomous farming system and the third would be an environmental data-gatherer.

Green supplied the computer-aided designs (CAD) for the drones and DPG tailored his designs to its manufacturing processes, engineered the models onto 3-D printing machinery and manufactured the final prototypes now on display in the Design Museum. The process itself involved developing complex structures with the 3-D printing equipment and engineering the fits for the wings of one drone so they held in place at different positions.

“Working with the AMRC has been an opportunity to explore what the future of drone technology could look like, using today’s cutting edge 3-D technologies,” said Green. “As well as being an incredible tool with which to design a prototype, additive manufacturing techniques are set to become increasingly common in the development of unmanned aerial vehicles, which the AMRC is well positioned to engage with.”