All of the moves point toward the perceived way forward for the industry: 3D printing for production, moving past a single-minded focus on prototype to an end use product. For GE, the move means the flexibility to build custom parts like fuel caps, built with the latest metal-based additive manufacturing.Relatedly, The Democratization of Airpower: The Insurgent and the Drone:
Until recently, the hard part of making EFPs was the precision machining necessary to create the copper cone. Poorly machined cones will not form effective projectiles. This is why the Iraqi insurgents relied on Iranian-provided cones to build their IEDs. However, dramatic improvements in 3D printing mean inexpensive home metal printing is now commercially available. Fused deposition printers, which can print metal, are now available for under $1,000 — or roughly half the cost of a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.
This pilot has clearly developed the skills to intercept and follow a moving target. He even demonstrates that he can fly the length of a column to evaluate the value of targets and pick a specific one. Lest you think his drone would be fairly easy to engage with small arms, consider the skills drone pilots in France have demonstrated in racing drones through the woods. Amplifying the threat, the pilots do not have to see the drone or the course to successfully execute high speed maneuvers on a forest trail. Any of these pilots could launch from inside an urban area or a covered rural position and fly his drone to the target without ever being visible to anyone. The speed and maneuverability show it will be very hard to hit one of these systems.
The low cost of some commercial drones – even autonomous ones — mean they can be expended as rounds of ammunitions. In 2014, a team at the University of Virginia developed a fully autonomous, 3D printed drone.