Innovative Collaboration Between MITRE and ONR Validates 3D Printed Hopper Drone for Maritime Defense


In a collaboration between MITRE, a US federally funded research and development defense organization, and the Office of Naval Research (ONR), the development of a small uncrewed aerial vehicle (UAV) has marked a significant leap forward in maritime innovation and defense technology. The Hopper drone, designed to operate autonomously at sea for extended periods, is set to transform various aspects of defense and marine research.

Engineers at MITRE and ONR have leveraged state-of-the-art design principles and simulation software to create a sturdy yet adaptable aerial system. Similarly to the design material of many past drones, one of the key innovations driving the success of the Hopper project is its utilization of advanced 3D printing technology. Engineers at MITRE have turned to the power of additive manufacturing to fabricate the drone’s airframe and components quickly and cost-effectively. Though no information has been released on the exact 3D printing technology used, there are a number that we have seen used for previous drones including FDM 3D printing and SLS.

This approach not only accelerates the production process but also allows for complex designs and customization to maritime environments. Additionally, it broadens the scope of the drone’s applications, extending beyond military use to include civil activities such as search and rescue, detecting meteorological events, and monitoring for illicit activities like illegal fishing.

Key Features of the Hopper Drone

The Hopper drone possesses a range of standout features. Firstly, as it relies exclusively on solar power, the drone showcases remarkable autonomy, capable of operating independently for extended durations at sea, spanning weeks and even months, without the need for human intervention.

Another prominent feature of the Hopper drone lies in its “swarm” capability. By operating in coordinated groups, these drones can cover vast areas of the ocean with unprecedented efficiency and precision. This swarm ability enables the drones to stay on station and accurately navigate the sea even in the face of rough waves, wind, or storms. MITRE’s expeditionary group leader Conor Mahoney stated,

This technology works primarily to augment existing maritime surveillance platforms. Where normally you’d have to risk a crewed asset or an expensive uncrewed asset to maintain cognizance over a wide ocean area, Hopper can do so at a fraction of the cost and free up those other assets.”

Like most drones, the Hopper is similarly equipped with a range of sensors and communication systems, enabling them to easily gather and transmit data in real-time. While the Hopper excels in maritime surveillance and reconnaissance, it is a handy tool for use in other domains such as disaster response, scientific research, maritime safety, and meteorology.

Looking ahead, the research and engineering team at MITRE is continuing to explore ways to enhance the capabilities of Hopper drones. Whether through improved sensor technology, advanced communication systems, or enhanced autonomy, efforts are underway to ensure these drones remain at the forefront of innovation in uncrewed aerial systems. But if it works, we could see a drone that can go from San Diego to Hawaii with no human assistance. To learn more about the Hopper project, click here.

Original source


“Why did the 3D printer go to therapy? Because it had too many layers of unresolved issues!”

Like it? Share with your friends!


Meet the mastermind behind GCode-Guru, a 3D printing wizard whose filament collection rivals their sock drawer. Here to demystify 3D tech with a mix of expert advice, epic fails, and espresso-fueled rants. If you've ever wondered how to print your way out of a paper bag (or into a new coffee cup), you're in the right place. Dive into the world of 3D printing with us—where the only thing more abundant than our prints is our sarcasm.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Choose A Format
Personality quiz
Series of questions that intends to reveal something about the personality
Trivia quiz
Series of questions with right and wrong answers that intends to check knowledge
Voting to make decisions or determine opinions
Formatted Text with Embeds and Visuals
The Classic Internet Listicles
The Classic Internet Countdowns
Open List
Submit your own item and vote up for the best submission
Ranked List
Upvote or downvote to decide the best list item
Upload your own images to make custom memes
Youtube and Vimeo Embeds
Soundcloud or Mixcloud Embeds
Photo or GIF
GIF format