Abstract

The nexus of two relatively recent technologies, additive manufacturing and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), has enabled new and unique capabilities that have only started to be realized in integrated systems. This paper explores and quantifies the impact of 3D printing parts for UAS, or entire UAS systems, on an agent platform while this agent travels to multiple locations as part of a mission objective. The fully printed or enhanced UAS can then be released at launch points farther away from the goal locations. This, in turn, can accelerate mission completion times and reduce travel costs depending upon the ratio between vehicle speed and 3D printing rate. Thousands of scenarios are optimized across the design space to minimize the travel path length for the agent platform as a result of 3D printing en route to the locations of interest. Results indicate that based on the print capability and agent travel speed, an exponential decay in the amount of travel distance of the agent platform occurs. For unity ratios of print speed and agent speed in the considered design space, a decrease of 55% in the total required distance of our agent is observed. This reduction in total travel distance can reduce time, fuel, cost, and other aspects including other environmental and social impacts. A generalized optimization formulation is also presented at the end to enable similar analyses with other en route range-extending technology such as battery charging.

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