This technical information has been contributed byMAPLE PLAIN, Minn.—The developers of the Sprite, a small, durable drone that offers an alternative to larger, generally more fragile quadcopter drones, were recently presented with a Proto Labs Cool Idea! Award, a service grant given to innovative companies by quick-turn manufacturer Proto Labs, Inc.
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The award comes at a time when the popularity of drone aircraft for consumer use is surging.
“Drones are already playing key roles in a variety of industries, and for military and public safety applications,” said Proto Labs Founder Larry Lukis, in a press release. “This particular drone is innovative because of its consumer-friendly design: a smaller size, greater durability and ease of use.”
The Sprite Drone, developed by Arizona-based Ascent AeroSystems, is described as an ultra-portable drone that collapses to the size of a water bottle and uses a coaxial rotor design (two rotors stacked one atop the other). Proto Labs’ Cool Idea! Award grant provided injection-molded parts for several iterations of prototype parts for the Sprite.
Jonathan Meringer, one of the founders of Ascent AeroSystems, said in the release that early Sprite concepts were developed on a consumer-grade 3D printer, using PLA and ABS-like plastics. “While that was great for our initial development, that process didn’t provide the parts with the durability we required,” he said. “The injection-molded polycarbonate parts (from Proto Labs) represent production-grade quality that’s added a dramatic improvement in everything from flight performance to assembly and maintainability. We were able to build several conforming vehicles that are really close to what the final product will be.”
The target market for the Sprite includes outdoor enthusiasts, such as hikers, backpackers, and wilderness adventurers, though significant interest has also come from public safety, law enforcement, defense, security, scientific research, and other commercial end-users, Meringer said.
Last year, Sprite benefited from what Meringer calls “an overwhelmingly successful Kickstarter campaign” that wrapped up in June. A total of $406,061 was reportedly pledged, far surpassing the goal of $200,000. The Sprite is targeted to reach the market in the second quarter of this year.
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