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Center Innovation Fund: ARC CIF

Use of 3D Printing and Rapid Manufacturing to Optimize Dragon Eye UAS for Volcanic Sampling Mission (FrankenEye)

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

The science community is interested in exploiting smaller, expendable unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) for missions to collect measurements.  The objective of this project is to showcase a new application of 3D printing and rapid prototyping to significantly reduce the time to flight-testing of science UAS platforms able to carry out useful research for the NASA Science Mission Directorate.   Our team will evaluate the utility of rapid prototyping and advanced manufacturing by testing two new, optimized science mission platforms that combine newly fabricated parts with stock Dragon Eye (DE) UAS donated to the Center as building blocks.

Our team will demonstrate that science mission aircraft can be built using salvaged UAS parts donated to the Center and optimized into more capable, long endurance mission platforms using 3D printing and other rapid manufacturing techniques.  This project aligns with the National Network for Manufacturing Initiative that seeks to find innovative ways of improving the quality and usefulness of 3D printed parts. Currently, our team has begun to use tools available through the Ames SpaceShop to 3D print, laser cut, and foam extrude new parts for UAS.   New parts include lightweight nose cones for carrying sensor payloads and wing section joints for added wingspan to improve aerodynamics.

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