U.S. drone manufacturer Skydio and Arris, a manufacturer of high-performance products, have redefined airframe design leveraging Additive Molding, Arris’s breakthrough carbon fiber manufacturing technology. Starting with the new Skydio X2 drone, enterprise, public sector and defense customers will benefit from lighter, longer-range, and more robust aircraft structures at scale.
The collaboration has resulted in the first-of-its-kind production use of Arris’s technology in the UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) industry, further extending Skydio’s technology leadership and enabling game-changing advantages:
- Advanced airframe design with component consolidation allowing Skydio to replace a 17 part assembly with a single, multi-functional structure
- Strength and stiffness of titanium at a fraction of the weight, enabling the Skydio X2 to increase range, and speed
- Optimized carbon and glass fiber layout based on functional requirements of individual regions of the airframe
- Scalable US-based manufacturing and innovation to bring peak aerospace performance at lower cost
“We are excited about the value that our partnership with Arris will bring to our customers. At Skydio, we pursue cutting edge innovation across all facets of drone technology. The unique properties of Arris’s Additive Molding carbon fiber allows us to optimize the strength, weight, and radio signal transparency of the Skydio X2 airframe to deliver a highly reliable solution that meets the needs of demanding enterprise, public safety and defense use cases,”
says Adam Bry, Skydio’s CEO.
Skydio X2 is Skydio’s latest autonomous drone solution for enterprise, public sector and defense. X2 pairs Skydio’s breakthrough autonomy software with a rugged, foldable airframe for easy “pack and go” transportation, and up to 35 minutes of flight time. The X2 airframe will include a newly designed core structural element manufactured with Arris’s Additive Molding™ technology. Arris’s first-of-its-kind Additive Molding leverages 3D-aligned continuous fiber composite materials for complex shapes where material composition can change within regions of a single part. As a result, Skydio has been able to use a single carbon fiber component with the structural results that would have otherwise required 17 parts.
“The evolution of aerospace design has been punctuated by breakthroughs in manufacturing and materials. Such a moment has come where manufacturing of optimized structures has converged with composite materials ideals to unlock previously impossible, high-performance aerospace designs,” says Ethan Escowitz, founder and CEO of Arris. “While we’re working with leading aerospace manufacturers to improve aircraft performance, sustainability and costs; Skydio’s culture and market have enabled an unsurpassed pace of innovation that has fast-tracked this transformation to deliver the next-generation of aerostructures. It’s simply amazing to see such a revolutionary product broadly available and flying today.”
Skydio X2 is the ultimate solution for a wide range of use cases, including situational awareness, asset inspection, security and patrol use cases. Designed, assembled, and supported in the USA, Skydio X2 is NDAA compliant and has been selected as a trusted UAV solution for the US Department of Defense as part of DIU’s Blue sUAS program. The partnership with Arris further validates Skydio’s commitment to innovation, secure supply chain security and US-based manufacturing.
The search for the right material for an autonomous drone
Hardware design is a process of compromise and optimization. While this is true for any product, building one that flies elevates the demands of this process to a whole new level. Every gram spent on that extra bracket and the screws to attach it cost the product speed and endurance.
The same way there is the right tool for every job, there is the right material for every function. A common challenge encountered is requiring one part to serve several functions, and the materials best suited for an individual function are often ill-suited for the others. This leads the designer to either compromise on the material selected to minimally satisfy all of the required functions, or compromise on the parts form, splitting it into a multi-part assembly invariably adding weight, cost, and complexity to the design.
For drone applications, parts are often expected to offer a combination of strength, thermal dissipation, electrical grounding, and shielding, or RF transparency to allow for antennas to transmit and receive signals. When strength, stiffness, and thermal dissipation are required, aluminum and magnesium are common choices, as they have both reasonably good strength and thermal properties for their density. Strength-to-weight ratio is one of the reasons why aluminum is used so extensively in airplanes and why carbon fiber composites are becoming more and more common (although less advantageous for thermal dissipation). Metals and carbon fiber composites however block RF signals and thus can’t be used in locations near antennas. In these instances, we typically use either glass fiber composites, which offer less strength-to-weight compared to carbon fiber, but are RF transparent, or injection molded plastics, which are often less stiff and thus not relied on as a core structural element.
Integrating Arris’s Additive Molding with the Skydio X2
The Skydio X2 airframe will include a newly designed core structural element manufactured with Arris’s Additive Molding™ technology. Arris’s Additive Molding enables a single part with material properties optimized for the local functions of the X2 aircraft. The forward region of the part is designed to be as sparse and material-efficient as possible to reduce drag and weight while providing a stable base for the gimbaled imaging system. The top region of the part is designed to fully enclose the X2 airframe to protect its internal components, provide RF transparency for the GPS antenna residing beneath it, and offer a very strong structural tie between the front arm locations. The prototype solution before engaging with Arris required a multi-part, multi-material assembly consisting of glass fiber composites, carbon fiber composites, aluminum brackets to form joins and offer mounting features, and screws to join these parts. Arris’s Additive Molding™ was able to create a single part with engineered material properties catering to the different functions throughout the part.
The forward region is achieved using carbon fiber composite in engineered orientations optimizing for strength-to-weight while minimizing the frontal area that will induce drag on the X2 aircraft. The part then transitions to glass fiber used over the top region of the drone to allow the GPS antenna to receive signals from satellites. To provide the strong structural tie required between the front arm locations, the part uses glass fibers strategically placed in thicker regions with engineered orientations, while allowing thinner sections in regions of lesser structural demands.
The result is a consolidation of what used to be a 17-piece assembly (2 carbon composite plates, 1 glass fiber composite plate, 4 aluminum brackets, and 10 fasters) into a single part with improved functionality across the board. It does so while offering a 25% weight reduction. In a game of gram chasing to maximize flight performance, Arris’s Additive Molding™ opens a huge design space for Skydio to deliver drones that are tougher, fly longer, and pack better.
Sources: Press Release; Blog
UAV DACH: Beitrag im Original auf https://www.uasvision.com/2020/12/21/skydio-adds-arriss-additive-molding-composites-to-x2-platform/, mit freundlicher Genehmigung von UAS Vision automatisch importiert. Der Beitrag gibt nicht unbedingt die Meinung oder Position des UAV DACH e.V. wieder. Das Original ist in englischer Sprache. Für die Inhalte ist der UAV DACH e.V. nicht verantwortlich.