As the manufacturing partner for Sanad Academy, the winner of the AED1million 2017 UAE Drones for Good prize, Immensa Technology Labs was faced with the task of redesigning and 3D printing the body of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) within a very short period of time. The decision to produce the drone using additive manufacturing was made only three weeks prior to the competition, at a time when the team at Sanad Academy realized that 3D printing was the only way by which they could realize their ambitious goals. Their aim was to manufacture a ‘lifeguard drone’ – a drone which did not only fly, but could also float on water and act as a lifebuoy for people who may be drowning.

The functional requirements of the drone meant that it had to be light, strong, durable, aerodynamic, and safe. These constraints led Sanad to design a very complex and aesthetically pleasing structure that would have taken months to produce and required substantial investment and resources using traditional manufacturing methods. In addition, a UAV generally contains several delicate electronic components that need to be placed at precise locations within the chassis of an UAV where they can be protected from sudden shocks and impacts. Traditionally manufacturing a frame that protects these components would require the fabrication of molds and tooling – fixtures that significantly ramp up the cost of production.

The team at Immensa immediately set about determining the right materials for 3D printng the drone. A preliminary structural analysis revealed what the operating loads on the drone would be, enabling Immensa to determine that our PA2200 material – a polyamide – would be capable of withstanding the stresses and strains that would be experienced by the UAV in flight. Sanad also leveraged on the design freedom provided by additive manufacturing technology to refine their design, making it stronger, safer, and more aesthetically pleasing. In consultation with Immensa, they were also able to structurally optimize the design and drive the weight further down. Adoption of an additive manufacturing process allowed Sanad to place their electronic components in a very creative way, a feat which ensured that the UAV’s centre of gravity lay in the geometric center whilst the weight and volume was kept very low.

Within a day, conceptual ideas from Sanad were translated by the team at Immensa into CAD models and optimized for 3D printing and were ready to be additively manufactured using latest laser sintering technology. The fabricated parts were taken through Immensa’s quality control system where defective parts were identified and discarded. The speed with which the CAD models were translated into physical prototypes enabled Sanad to make both major and minor iterations to the design within the timeframe available. The drone parts were then assembled and successfully tested by Sanad, validating the results of the structural analysis and design optimization that was carried out in conjunction with the team at Immensa.

Owing to the freedom of design, short production time, and low iteration cost that the additive manufacturing process at Immensa allows, the team was successful in delivering not one, but two aesthetically pleasing, lightweight, flying UAV within a week.

The Sanad Academy project which won the competition is based on the idea of inventing a drone that can locate drowning victims and offer assistance immediately. The finalists were selected from 1,017 entries from 165 countries. Immensa’s team played a central role in the mechanical redesign of the UAV and its underlying structure and the 3D printing of the actual winning drones.

The UAV designed by Sanad and manufactured by Immensa is able to cut the time of reaching a drowning person that is 500 meters away from shore from 112 seconds by Jet Ski to 28.5 seconds using the Drone.

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