Drone Industry

Discover how additive manufacturing can be a game-changer for your drone project!

  • Innovation
  • Adaptability
  • Scalability
How can 3D printing benefit the drone industry ?
drone

How to build a drone?

Introduction

Drones or UAV technology for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles are now used for various purposes and in a lot of different industries. Drones can be used for the most technical applications and are real engineering devices. These past years, drone growth has been quite impressive. The opportunities offered by drones are endless; from agriculture, construction and mining, insurance, and media and telecommunications, drones are now everywhere. Indeed, these drones can operate under remote control by a human operator or autonomously by onboard computers. 

Do you have a drone project for your company? Are you looking to start a drone business? If pre-built drones might be an easier solution, building your own drone will allow you to make a flying devices perfectly meeting the requirement of your project, or of your customers. Building your own drone is possible even if you are a beginner and it’s your first drone.

Building a drone is quite technical, but with the right tools, support and services, you will be able to create perfectly optimized drones. 

A diversity of drones: What kind of drone is made for your project?

What is a drone?

Drones are aircraft without any human pilot or passengers onboard. They are controlled remotely by an operator. The drone can also fly autonomously using software-controlled flight plans. These devices can be used for agriculture, delivery services, surveillance, drone-based photography, and many more. 

From FPV drones, to racing drones, there is necessarily a type of drone for you out there.

What kind of drones can we find on the market? 

The type of drone depends on the number of motors it has. He is the different types of drones available:

  • Tricopter: A drone with three motors.
  • Quadcopter: A drone with four motors.
  • Hexacopter: A drone with six motors.
  • Octocopter: A drone with eight motors.

Quadcopters are by far the most popular, so we will be focusing on how to make a quadcopter in this guide.

What is the size of a drone?

Drones are also categorized by their size. Here are the different drone types:

  • Nano Drone: 80-100 mm
  • Micro Drone: 100-150 mm
  • Small Drone: 150-250 mm
  • Medium Drone: 250-400 mm
  • Large Drone: 400+ mm

The challenges of Drone Manufacturing

What are the different drone parts?

The drone manufacturing process has several challenges. One of them is the different parts you will need to build.

  • Drone frame

The frame is the base of the drone, you can buy a frame from a retailer, but you can also use 3D printing to build it and create a measure-made drone frame. This frame is important and building it will also set the number of arms and motors your drone will have. Drones with four motors, also known as quadcopters, are by far the most popular drones.

The frame size is determined by the farthest distance that two motors are from each other.

  • Drone motors

If you are building a traditional quadcopter you will need four motors, if you are building an octocopter, your drone will require eight motors. While choosing motors for your drone, you will have the choice between brushed and brushless. Brushless motors are more expensive but will use less battery and will last longer.

  • Drone propellers

We recommend using plastic propellers. How many blades should there be on one propeller? You can choose, its usually between 2 and 4 blades. The more blades you decide to get, the faster the drone will go. For example, racing FPV drones usually have 3 blades per propeller, with prop sizes between 5 inches and 3 inches.

  • Batteries

The most used batteries for drones are Li-Po batteries. When purchasing the batteries for your drone, you will need to consider the capacity of a battery and its type. You can also add a battery monitor to inform you of the status of the battery, this way you know how to prevent your drone from dying in inopportune places.

  • Flight Controller

In order for your drone to fly, a flight controller will be necessary. The flight controller is the brain of your drone, it will use the data from the sensors and it will also calculate how fast the motors should spin to control the movement of your drone. The choice of flight controller will be influenced by the software that you will use. 

  • Mounting pad

This part can especially be useful if you are willing to take pictures or videos with your drone, it will reduce the vibrations during the flights. 

  • Gimbal/supports

A gimbal is a support system for your camera, it will help you get professional videos by keeping your camera at the same angle, regardless of motion, and lessens vibrations. 

  • Camera

To take aerial photographs and record videos while flying your drone, you will need a good camera. The best cameras to put on a drone are those that can take the quality 4K videos. 

If you have a high-quality camera, don’t also forget to use a gimbal to make the most of your footage. 

  • USB Key

This will be essential to save pictures and videos.

  • Protections

It is also possible to create protections for some parts of your drones. For example, for the propellers or for any parts that might be fragile, systems can be added around them to protect them.

  • Enclosures

Electronic components can be placed inside enclosures, which will be much more convenient and help to protect the electronic devices.

Designing a drone for Additive Manufacturing: What CAD software could you use?

You will need engineering software to build, an advanced program will be necessary to develop such a project, especially if you are willing to make an advanced drone, with advanced features, intricate geometries, or integrated designs.

Here are some CAD software we could recommend to work on drone manufacturing:

  • Solidworks
  • CATIA

Also, using generative design might be a necessity to achieve optimized drone parts. 

Design benefits using additive manufacturing

  • Lightweight structures

When it comes to drones, weight is crucial. The flying devices has to be quite light in order to actually fly, the motors have to be powerful enough. Most of the time, the goal of drone manufacturer is too make ligther drones. Ligther drone are easier to make using 3D printing by using innovative structures. By using lattice structures, you can significantly reduce the weight of your drone. 

  • Integrated features/Assembly

Additive manufacturing is also helping to build drone with integrated features, meaning you don’t have to print all the parts separately. It might be possible to print some projects all in one part, which is impossible with traditional manufacturing techniques. 

  • Custom made

Thanks to additive manufacturing, it is possible to create drones perfectly adapted to your projects. The design can be optimized and customized to fit all your needs. Each drone you create can actually be adapted to its future application.

Choosing additive manufacturing for your drone manufacturing process

What are the exact parts you can make using 3D printing?

Drone frame, camera gimbal, support structures, internal enclosures, fixing brackets and disassembly, connectors electronic, spare parts, all these parts can be 3D printed. But what are the advantages of 3D printing these parts for your drone?  Innovation, explore and rethink all your design possibilities thanks to additive manufacturing. You will benefit from freedom of design you might never access using traditional manufacturing. Adaptatability will also become one of your big strengths. Create on-demand parts, perfectly adapted to the specific needs of your projects. Iterate, adapt and make the most of mass-customization to manufacture parts perfectly fitting your most demanding projects.   Thanks to these innovation and adaptability opportunities, you will get the chance to grow and face new challenges by rethinking your business strategy and improving your manufacturing process from prototyping to production. 

What materials should you use to manufacture your drone?

Why could additive manufacturing be a game-changing manufacturing technique for your drone?

Design aspects we saw previously, particularly be useful to manufacture your drones. 3D printed drones
  • Short Lead Times: Get your parts in just a few days. Compared to a manufacturing technique such as injection molding where making molds and then manufacturing the actual part is taking weeks, additive manufacturing allows to get your parts printed in just a few days.
  • Quick Iteration: Speed up your iteration process and your whole product development process using additive manufacturing.
  • On-Demand Manufacturing: Rather than maintaining an inventory of drones or drone parts, it is possible to use digital manufacturing services and produce any number of parts when you need them.
  • Quality surface finish: 3D printing is now offering advanced surface finishes for your 3D printed parts. Get a finished look with UV protections, depending on the finish you are choosing and the area

They use 3D printing for their drone projects!

Sculpteo’s 3D printing service is known for its collaboration with some leaders from the drone industry. Here is a selection of great drone projects using 3D printing. Get inspired by these additive manufacturing projects.

Svarmi

svarmi 3D printed drone

Svarmi started working on several projects including 3D printing to discover the full potential of the additive manufacturing technology. After that they started developing a 3D printed drone which appeared to be a great successt. The number of components was reduced by a factor of almost 6 and the time to assemble the drone went from being almost two weeks to two days including all the soldering required. The total weight of the drone was also reduced by a factor of 20%.

Hexadrone

Hexadrone - 3D printing drone

 Hexadrone realized very quickly when designing their drone the necessity for customization, functionality, and fast time-to-market were essential features for the success of their drones They used 3D printing to create a frame and made the most of integrated assembly.

We Robotics

werobotics

The cargo drone project aims to provide a low-cost add-on module for consumer drones for cargo transport purposes. With minimal time investment and a professional quality and surface finish, WeRobotics could meet all of its manufacturing requirements and still be cost-effective thanks to Sculpteo.

Do you have a drone project in mind? Upload your 3D model now and 3D print your own unmanned aerial vehicle, or some drone parts! If you want more information to 3D print your drone, don’t hesitate to contact us.

How to build a drone from scratch?

To build a drone you will need to build or buy all the different components and assemble them. Using additive manufacturing, you might be able to build integrated assembly, meaning you will need to manufacture fewer parts to make your drone and get optimized custom-made parts specifically fitting your project.

    Are drones difficult to make?

    With some design skills and a good manufacturing partner by your side, drones are not that difficult to make.

    Is it expensive to build drones?

    The price will depend on the type of drone you are building. Building a traditional DIY drone can cost around $350 – $500, but if you want to build an advanced drone, with some of the additional features, high-performance materials, finishings, etc. your drone will be more expensive.

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