Swift part I

3D printed airplane - part one

Swift part I

The team and I came up with a great idea.

We will make a lightweight, high performance, long endurance UAV airplane for multiple purposes. The features will be, live monitoring, 3D aerial mapping, thermal monitoring ect. To make an extra challenge for our self we will make the air plane weight less than 1 kg and see how quickly we can make the plane.

To this project we came up with a revolutionize idea which will make the airplane lighter, prevent damages and easier to land. The SWIFT is designed to land on inverted position.

Inverted position landing means that while flying the camera will be under the plane to get the best pictures and video as possible but before landing it will turn upside down and land on the “top”.

With this kind of landing it will prevent damages to the camera and other external sensors and make the plane easier and safer to land for the pilot. (Or at least without worries for the pilot that damage might happen.)

To make the airplane as light as possible, the inverted position landing will be made without adding mechanical systems and the SWIFT is designed to be made in carbon fiber.

To be able to test all the aerodynamic calculations, analyses and flight performance in real condition we decided to make a prototype of the SWIFT by using 3D print. At the moment 3D printing technology is developing rapidly and it is very cost effective manufacturing method in the aviation industry.

Another upside by 3D print is that it allows us to print very complex, light weight structures for high performance by just printing the part in one piece.

For an example, wing structure:
With traditional wing manufacture is made with a lot of pieces and the assembled into one part.

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With 3D print that wing is made in three parts that are all printed in one piece.

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This is very hard to do with traditional airplane manufacturing technique without adding extra weight and cannot be done in one piece but only by parts. This part shown in the picture take about 3-4 hours to 3D print if something breaks and the assemble only requires electronics such as: servos, flight control unit, batteries.

The Swift is printed with Shapways from “Strong & Flexible Plastic”. We have used classic airplane structure to be able to produce the wings faster and to test the characteristics of the 3D printed structure. To make the wing as strong as possible, we made it with support every 45mm.

And one of the most important parts is wing trailing edges because they are very thin and by the 3D printing there is some lost. To avoid these lost we decided that it would be better to cut 1m inside from the trailing edges in CAD software.

The first prototype of the Swift is done. The work time was two weeks with drawings, aerodynamic calculations, analysis and printing.

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We want to test and optimize the airfoils and control surface size and to make it possible to test multiple setups; we made the first prototype of Swift modular. This means that we easily can change both wing and control surfaces without making any changes of the rest of the plane structure.

Flight test will come soon.

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24. February 2015