Watch the First 3D-Printed Drone Launch Off a Navy Warship

On-site printing is the future of weaponry.

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In one of the greatest future-tech mashups yet, the Brits have gone and 3D printed a spy drone and launched it off a warship at sea because why the hell not?

Using 3D printing to print weapons isn’t anything new, but in the defense industry, the ability to do so on site — whether in a foreign location or on a ship on the water — is a game changer. Being able to print weapons anywhere would cut shipping costs, repair time, and reduce the risk that they be intercepted by enemy forces.

If on-site 3D printing is the future of weaponry, easy assembly is key. The engineers at the University of Southampton designed a drone that could be assembled from four 3D-printed parts that could snap together, Ikea-style, without nuts and bolts. The Southampton University Laser Sintered Aircraft or “SULSA” drone took about 24 hours to print, 24 hours to cool, and only five minutes to assemble. The 4-foot-long aircraft was then launched off the Royal Navy warship HMS Mersey.

“The launch of a 3D-printed aircraft from HMS Mersey is a small glimpse into the innovation and forward thinking that is now embedded in our navy’s approach,” First Sea Lord Admiral Sir George Zambellas told the BBC. “And, because it’s new technology, with young people behind it, we’re having fun doing it.”