Spy drones could soon be printed on demand and launched from Navy warships after the successful test of a 3D printed unmanned aircraft.
The 3D printed drone was launched from the gun deck of the Royal Navy's HMS Mersey before landing safely on a beach in Dorset. The unmanned aircraft, which weighs (6.6 lb) (3kg) and has a wingspan of 4.9ft (1.5m), flew autonomously for five minutes along a pre-programmed route.
An onboard camera recorded the flight before it was then remotely piloted to land on its belly on the pebbles at Chesil Beach, near Weymouth, Dorset. The test raises the possibility of creating cheap drones on board Navy vessels while at sea.
The aircraft was printed out of nylon using a laser sintering in four parts that can be assembled without the use of any tools. With a cruise speed of 50kts (58mph), it can fly almost silently, making it ideal for use for surveillance.