Italian drone company Soleon has been using 3D printing to reduce the weight of drone components, improving the efficiency of its unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). One of its latest products, SoleonAgro, is an agricultural pest control drone with a laser sintered polyamide body. For those of us who don’t work in agriculture, our knowledge of crop dusting is limited to a handful of scenes in the Will Smith sci-fi movie Independence Day. We know it has something to do spraying crops with chemicals, we know aircraft are involved somehow, and we think there is some connection with aliens in there too.
In recent decades, unmanned crop dusting vehicles have become more common, and the recent drone craze has only served to accelerate the trend. One company developing such crop dusting drones is Soleon, an Italian UAV specialist that has been in the business since 2009. Using 3D printing services to create lightweight components for its drones, Soleon recently unveiled SoleonAgro, a drone made for biological pest control.
“The big advantage of 3D Printing is that we can very quickly create complex systems, even in small quantities,” said Soleon’s Michael Überbacher. “Normally the parts are printed and sent within one week. As a small company, this offers us the opportunity to react very quickly to the changes and wishes of our customers.”
Instead of chemicals, the 3D printed drone distributes the eggs of the Trichogramma, a species of wasp that has a keen appetite for the corn borer. This genius solution has a number of benefits: it’s natural, it’s eco-friendly, and it’s a devastatingly effective way of preserving maize crops. By distributing these wasp eggs evenly and efficiently, the 3D printed SoleonAgro drone can be an incredibly useful agricultural tool.