Thursday, February 16, 2012


Printing Drones by the Sheet (or how we get to tens of billions of drones by 2020)

Pratheev Sreetharan on the old way of making micro-drones:  "You'd take a very fine tungsten wire and dip it in a little bit of superglue.  Then, with that tiny ball of glue, you'd go in under a microscope like an arthroscopic surgeon and try to stick it in the right place."
The FAA currently estimates that there will be 30,000 drones licensed to operate in US skies by 2020.  It's a misleading estimate.
It only counts large, professional drones (and even that estimate is low).  It doesn't count all of the small/micro drones operating below ~400ft and at slower airspeeds.   How many micro-drones will there be by 2020?
Tens of millions (tens of billions if there is warfare or repression driving it  -- and given the problems we are facing, there will be) and they will look something like this (depicted:  The Mobee):
How do we get to that number?
Simple.  You print them by the sheet.
Here's the latest step in that development.  The microrobotics team at Harvard discovered a new manufacturing process that allowed them to go from
  • assembling drones by hand a month ago with an 85% error rate to 
  • manufacturing them by the sheet with nearly zero defects/failures in assembly.
Think about that for a second.
Modern tools for rapid prototyping are so precise (< 5 microns of error across the entire sheet), cheap (that a small drone lab can access them), and fast (design it on the computer lead straight to manufacturing) that nearly everyone can do this (or will be soon).
Some more detail
One of the manufacturing breakthroughs was the use of  folding techniques (ala origami and children's pop up books) and hinges to cleanly assemble a 3D shape from a 2D sheet.  Very slick.

>>> Hey, I'm going to be putting up some info on drone defense soon. Make sure you subscribe to the Resilient Communities newsletter (basic is free) to get it.

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