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General Atomics Makes the Most of 3D Printing

Rapid Prototyping Bolsters Ordnance Development

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) successfully demonstrated an ordnance drop using its Advanced Air-Launched Effects (A2LE) platform, releasing it from the internal arms bay of an MQ-20 Avenger.

The test took place over Utah's Dugway Proving Ground, putting the A2LE design to the test with a realistic in-flight release. The launch  releasing an A2LE capped off a series of tests all at once, validating elements from the development process affecting manufacturing, structural, and flight engineering. For the Air-Launched design, GA-ASI made the most of their newfangled Divergent Adaptive Production System (DAPS). Despite the acronym, it's best seen as a higher-end, sufficiently advanced version of the kind of processes 3D printing aficionados enjoy at home. Just like them, the DAPS allowed GA-ASI to rapidly produce a cheap, robust demo vehicle to gauge the future success of immature concepts. The test essentially validates that system too, showing that good ideas can be brought to fruition without the permissions and investments needed to develop traditional prototypes.

“This demonstration was a crucial first step in demonstrating GA-ASI’s ability to rapidly develop, manufacture, and test a Small Unmanned Aircraft System (SUAS) in a controlled, low-risk approach,” said Mike Atwood, vice president of Advanced Programs at GA-ASI. “A2LE demonstrates the coupling of GA-ASI’s pedigreed aircraft design capabilities with Divergent’s DAPS, paving the way for continued maturation of affordable, modular SUAS platforms that can be tailored to meet warfighter needs at a fraction of the cost and lead time of currently fielded systems.”



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