The U.S. Marine Corps uses small, fixed drones for surveillance.
They’re primarily using AeroVironment’s RQ-11 Raven and the RQ-12 Wasp III, which cost $35,000 to $50,000 (plus $100,000 ground control systems).
But it turns out, similar drones can be made simply via a 3D-printer.
26 year-old Corporal Rhet McNeal developed a 3D-printed version of the drone called Scout. The design consists of four 3D-printed parts, which can snap together in less than three minutes. The whole thing can be built for $613, consisting of off-the-shelf electronics, 3D printer resin and controlled from the iPhone app Q Ground Control — a fraction of the cost of AeroVironment’s drones.
Though, it does not have all the features of AeroVironment’s drones.
“We have these drones that do a hundred things that make them cost between $35,000 and $50,000, but the soldiers normally only use the two or three big capabilities,” said McNeal in a prepared statement. “I wanted to strip it down to what we actually use so that our drone does not cost so much we are afraid to use it – if you break it, not a big deal.”
McNeal spent time developing the prototype at Autodesk’s Pier 9, and is now back on base in Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina.
McNeal’s 3D design files and build specifications for the Scout have been handed off to The MITRE Corporation, which supplies and tests many of the Marines’ drones and will carry the Scout through wider-scale manufacturing.