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[Image above] Credit: Stratasys; YouTube

Additive manufacturing company Stratasys and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) systems manufacturing specialist Aurora Flight Sciences have teamed to fabricate something light, fast, and revolutionary—the first jet-powered, 3-D printed drone aircraft.

The aircraft, with a 9-ft wingspan and weighing just 33 lbs, is powered by a jet engine that is capable of propelling the craft to 150 mph.

Built primarily from 3-D printed parts—it’s 80% 3-D printed by weight—the craft is mostly composed of a thermoplastic material printed using fused deposition modeling (FDM), a standard layer-by-layer printing technique used in additive manufacturing.

In addition to FDM, however, some components of the craft are printed via laser sintering and direct metal laser sintering of a family of austenitic nickel-chromium-based Inconel superalloys. This mouthful of materials are oxidation- and corrosion-resistant, making them perfectly suited for high-pressure and high-heat environments.

The 3-D printed drone, ready to fly. Credit: Stratasys

The aircraft’s wings have a completely enclosed, hollow structure. Credit: Stratasys

“In addition to leveraging FDM materials for all large and structural elements, we utilized the diverse production capability of Stratasys Direct Manufacturing to produce components better suited to other technologies. We elected to laser sinter the nylon fuel tank, and our thrust vectoring exhaust nozzle was 3-D printed in metal to withstand the extreme heat at the engine nozzle,” Stratasys aerospace and defense senior business development manager Scott Sevcik says in a Stratasys press release.

The team built the aircraft to demonstrate its ability to rapidly progress from a design to a fully built, 3-D printed, jet-powered prototype.

Watch this impressive prototype soar and hear more from its engineering team in the short video below.

Credit: Stratasys; YouTube