New Israeli ‘paper airplane’ drone made with a 3D printer

Israel’s new electric-powered ‘Sky Printer’ unmanned drone is big enough to carry a camera and communications gear, even though it is made from paper.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Israel’s defense establishment has produced what may be the world’s first powered paper airplane that is made on a 3D printer, Channel 13 reported Wednesday.

The Israeli high tech industry is known as a pioneering specialist in the fields of both 3D printing and unmanned aircraft, and the new “Sky Printer” drone is a marriage of the two.

It sounds like science fiction, but all the parts of the UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) from the wings to the wheels, about 26 parts, are made of paper printed on a 3D printer.

“When the need arises in the field we can print a drone within a few hours and at a very low cost,” explained Neta Blum, the leader of the UAV printed project at the Ministry of Defense.

The Sky Printer is 1.65 meters (5 feet 5 inches) long with a wingspan of 1.5 meters (4 feet 11 inches) and can carry a payload of up to seven kilograms (15 pounds). This allows the Sky Printer to be used as a reconnaissance drone or fitted with other gear for military purposes. It’s the first type of printed aircraft from the weapons development (MAPA) directorate in the Ministry of Defense and the Israeli Air Force is interested in using it, the report said.

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The drone’s electric motor is far less noisy than those on the drones currently used by the Israeli Air Force, giving it a different type of stealth capability.

With the world moving into the growing field of 3D printing, the drone’s printed electric motor is not the first. Large aerospace companies as well as the U.S. space agency NASA are experimenting with printed components, and NASA has produced a small spacecraft engine using a 3D printer.