US Navy considers 3D-printing for future fleets of drones

Eurasia News

Three-dimensional (3D) printers are quickly proving to be capable of creating just about anything out of little more than thin air, and that could be the military’s key to keeping an endless arsenal of drones at its disposal.

Just as 3D-printed organs, pizza and even firearms are being made with the post-modern machinery; the United States military is eyeing the up-and-coming technology as to further their upper-hand on the battlefield. Recently, a decorated member of the US Navy made an argument for adding unmanned aerial vehicles and even munitions to the list of items that can be made with little more than a well-equipped printer and a few clicks of a mouse.

Hobbyists and engineering students have already toyed with the idea of using 3D printers to make unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, but the Navy could piggyback on that idea to ensure that UAVs made to withstand military operations are soon a reality. In an article published this month in the Armed Forces Journal, Lt. Cmdr. Michael Llenza discussed what could be next in the works for the Navy.

For the Navy, the technology promises to shift inventory from the physical world to the digital one,” Llenza wrote. “Instead of actual parts, a ship might carry 3D printers and bags of various powdered ingredients, and simply download the design files needed to print items as necessary.”

A Texas college student recently made international headlines after his blueprints for a gun made almost exclusively with 3D-printed parts were distributed for free on the Web, prompting condemnation from the likes of the US State Department and congressional lawmakers. The “Liberator” handgun has since rekindled a discussion on the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, but an argument might not even arise of it if the Pentagon starts printing out weaponry of its own. And according to Llenza, that’s exactly what’s about to happen.

The US Navy recently launched their first-ever drone from an aircraft carrier off Virginia’s Atlantic coast. Previously, all of the Pentagon’s UAV missions were carried out by the Air Force.