Nomad, an FPV/UAV 3D printed airplane.

by CaptainObvious, published

Nomad, an FPV/UAV 3D printed airplane. by CaptainObvious Mar 15, 2014

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Update May 15th 2015
I added the file NomadUAV_MkI.zip which contains the original 3D Max scene file with all the components

This is the first ready to fly version of the plane, you can download the STL files and print your own plane now.
You may notice that I changed the inverted V-tail for a normal one, I still want to try the inverted version on the fiberglass model, but for the printed one it is better to keep the tail off the ground on landing.
I also included an OBJ file with the original mesh for all the parts, so that anyone can modify them to their liking, or create new designs, many parts need to be subdivided before exporting the STL file, please check with the original STL files for reference.
Here's a video of the maiden flight: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qf5Z83dHrow
This is the Nomad, a new design I'm working on for a travel UAV/FPV airplane. This version has a wingspan of almost one meter, so it's relatively small. After I've completed and test flown I plan to make a 30/50% larger version to carry a GoPro camera in the nose for aerial photography.
The airplane is meant to be modular, the nose and tail sections are joined to the center section with nylon screws, the wings and stabilizers are detachable and even the wing panels can be kept separate to simplify repairs and testing new design ideas.
Some comments on the design.
-The wing sections are meant to be printed in a "Spiral Vase" mode, the internal spars and/or printing settings should be adjusted so that the printing head makes the spars by moving in from the bottom of the wing until touching the inner surface of the top of the wing, so there is only one seam at the bottom.
-I have carefully modeled the fuselage parts so that most of them will print as a two perimeter shell using a 0.3mm nozzle, except where more thickness is needed.
-The wings need two carbon fiber tubes, 8 and 3 mm diameter, the stabilizer also uses a 3mm carbon fiber tube spar.
-The plane will use one brushless motor mounted on the tail with a 6" propeller.


I used a 0.3mm nozzle to print all parts, for some you need to adjust your perimeter width so they will print with one or two perimeter shell thickness, for example the wings are printed in a spiral vase mode with one perimeter thickness (0.2mm works well), same for the tail surfaces.

The fuselage parts print correctly with a 0.3mm perimeter thickness to produce a two perimeter thick shell over most of the length.

Fuselage_F STL mesh is solid, it needs to be printed either on spiral vase mode (0.3mm extrussion width) or as a 0% infill with two .3mm perimeters and no top/bottom layers.

Nomad UAV bill of materials.
All this components (except the 1mm steel wire) were bought form HobbyKing.com, but similar ones can be found elsewhere and this list can be used as a reference.
-Elevon servos: Turnigy TSS-10HM Digital Micro Servo X2
-Flaperon servos: D05010MG 5.7g / .61kg / .07sec Digital Metal Gear Micro Servo X2
-Motor: hexTronik 24gram Brushless Outrunner 1300kv
-ESC: Turnigy AE-25A Brushless ESC
-Battery: 3 cell, 1500mAh LiPo.
-R/C receiver: OrangeRx Open LRS 433MHz 9Ch Receiver
-Elevon servo pushrod link: Ball and roller link 4.8x2x18mm (10pcs/set) & Threaded Ends M2xL20mm
-Flaperon clevis: Nylon Snap-Click style clevis for 1mm rod
-8x4 propeller (PRODUCT ID: H8011A )
-M3 nylon screws and nuts.
-3mm outer diameter nylon pushrods.
-1mm steel wire for elevon and flaperon linkages.
-8mm and 3mm diamter carbon fiber tube for wing and tail spars, -1,5mm diamter carbon fiber rod for control surface hinges.
-Glass Fiber Cloth 450x1000mm 48g/m2 to reinforce the inside of the fuselage nose section.

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I tried increasing the size of the parts to 40% bigger and found out that the walls are just to thin to hold up for a bigger plane.

This comment has been deleted.

Thanks a bunch. I'll share my results as well.

Awesome design, thanks for sharing. What was you max flight time with the bill of materials listed? Better yet if you did get to install the autopilot and other electronics mention previously can you share the results? Interesting in knowing weight, speed and time.

I haven't had the time to work on or test the plane, I only did a few short flights so I don't know the maximum flight time and such. The weight of the airframe is 400 grams, and ready to fly is 650 grams, but I haven't installed an Ardupilot or FPV gear in it yet.
The thing that has stalled me on this project is that I want to find PLA that is more heat resistant than the one I'm using now, it bends slowly over time under load or quickly if left in a very hot place.

I got most of the parts printed but I can't determine where some of the parts go. I tried to use your first picture as reference but I realized it's one of your older designs. I got the fuselage built but I don't know where the wing parts go together. For example, some of the joiners I printed out doesn't seem to fit together (even if I got the wing and joiner thickness right). Could you put up an updated picture of the exploded view?

I'm somewhere up in the Himalayas right now... so it'll take a couple weeks for me to get home and do the picture you need.
In the meantime, the wings have one root rib that houses the servo, so that's easy to spot, then there's a middle joiner, the one with two steps on either side and an open C shaped hinge for the aileron (be sure you install the right and left one on the correct wings!); then there's a rib for the wing tip, it's easy to spot because it extends all the way to the trailing edge,
The outer wing panel should be printed with two or three bottom layers, that side will be against the wing tip rib and doesn't need a rib/joiner, although you need to add a piece of 3mm CF tube on the rear "socket" to keep the wing tip from rotating around the main spar.

How were you able to slide in the motor mount end piece to fuselage part F? I had to print out two of each parts since it won't go in.

You may need to trim it up a little on the "plug" side, that's what I did if I remember correctly, I also used epoxy adhesive to fix it in place.

I had to trim mine too, but once I did it was very snug, and I let the rods & screws hold it in place. I don't see it going anywhere any time soon, and I can remove it if necessary.

I suppose it can be just press fit in place with no problems, it would save a lot of headache in case you forget to put the motor screw nuts in place before installing the firewall. :D

I just put up a pic of my assembled plane. I used a .4 nozzle (should have waited for my .3 to arrive) and had to do a bit of trimming. My first receiver was a dud, but that's all I'm waiting on to fly!

Make sure the motor thrust line goes through the center of the wing spar where it passes the middle of the fuselage, the firewall should set the right angle but it's very sensitive so check that out before flying.

What length of the 8, 3, and 1.5 mm rods did you use?

Total length for all tubes? Not sure, I think 90cm for the wing 8mm carbon tube (two 45cm tubes), two 17cm 3mm tubes for the elevators and some short pieces of 3mm tube and 1.5mm rod here and there.
The wings use a 5cm or so 3mm as a second spar to make a better connection to the fuselage, and the 1.5mm rod is for the ailerons and elevons hinges.

things are progressing well!
I'm doing every piece in PLA, extruding with a .6 nozzle. Fuselage is complete, every piece made with a single wall, it looks very rigid as I wanted. For the internal parts I'll try again with nylon.
Now printing wings and stabilizer with the same nozzle, after some experiment I found the right settings (CuraEngine), the parts look so nice!
Hope to post some pictures of my build in the coming days.

Cool, I'd love to see some pictures, and a flight video! ;)
I've been too busy with other things lately to do any further work on this plane.

I promise to post my build as soon as I finish printing. Since I'm using a .6 nozzle every part needs some trimming due to high tolerances required, especially the wings and stabilizer connections to the fuselage. Really the coolest project so far, I'm loving it.

Printing a wing piece in taulman bridge right now, hope to post some impressions soon.

Experiment failed, running at 1 shell produces a tissue like structure, very cool but totally useless. Will retry with PLA leaving nylon for other parts

It took me many tests to get the wings to print correctly in PLA, if you want I can look on the GCode files for the settings I used.
Is it possible that the nylon print failed because it was under extruding or the layers were not bonding properly?

I think the main issue is my nozzle size, 0.3: it's ok for consistent PLA printing, too thin for nylon IMHO. The extrusion was set at 125% flow rate, 1 perimeter, spiral vase on CuraEngine. With these settings I get a tissue like piece, layer bonding is perfect.
I also made a 50% make with 3 perimeters, just to test the stiffness, I think it still bends too much. Nylon seems to be not that good choice for wings, but other pieces may be good in that material: at the same volume, it's much lighter than PLA and less prone to crack.
Will retry a last time with a larger nozzle (0.6) as soon as it comes home (I'm also waiting for an E3D V6 hot end to arrive), maybe even in T-Glase.
I want to make it fly, for sure :D

Where is the GC?
I am wondering how you managed to get the GC at the right place, even though the motor is at the farthest end.
As you can see on my flying wing.http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:407766
Although a very short tail I had problems again to get the CG forwards and had to extend the nose by a spacer.
And yes, I partly used the same way to design the wing and accept the disadvantage of the small grooves. Bars inside are difficult to slice except with Skeinforge.
I think, as soon as the air notice it - it is already gone ;-)

"Red Duck" First Take Off of a fully printed flying wing.
by wersy

The battery is mounted all the way forward in the nose, but still needed 15 grams or so of lead as ballast to get the CG in the proper place (around 3 or 4mm on front of the main spar) That shouldn't be an issue when I get around installing the FPV camera on the plane, the extra weight on the nose should make ballast unnecessary.
Besides that the rear fuselage is quite light, the rearmost segment weighs 7 grams if I remember correctly. If instead of printed elevons it would have foam ones I'm sure it would balance without any extra ballast necessary.

At the moment I'm working on a new design for a 3D printed plane, one that will use foam wings and tail surfaces, after I'm done with it I think I'll do a bit of redesign on the Nomad so it will be able to use the same wing as in the new plane.

Printed wings work, but I think the weight penalty is too great, more than that, the heavy wings have a detrimental effect on stability (I think), making it sensitive to yaw excursions due to the mass of the wings; this is something I noticed when launching the plane, if some yaw is induced at the low launching speed the rudder doesn't have enough authority to counteract the inertia of the wings and it can end up in a cartwheel on the ground... or at least that is my analysis. =)

Yes, the all dominating weight of a printed wing affects the flight characteristics. I noticed this on my sail plane. Once the wing is in movement, it takes some time to calm it down, especially on low speed.
As you can see on my video, the weight doesn't seem to affect the flying wing because the wing is the main part and is controlled only by its flaps. Weight is even an advantage on windy days.
That is the reason that I will design only flying wings - from now on :-)
The GC on a flying wing is much more forwards. It was 63 mm from the wing's front edge. The wing is 336 mm, that means 19%.

Surely it is better to use more suitable materials when needed and I'll be looking forward to see how you did it.

Anyway, my aim is still 100% printed - with all disadvantages ;-)

One thing with the "Red Duck" is, I think, that the wing has a very low aspect ratio, therefore there's relatively less inertia from the wing compared with a longer aspect ratio one.
For the new plane I'm working on as I said the wings are made of hot-wire cut foam cores, I did print the templates to cut the cutting guides so that has to count for something. :D
Cutting the wings is quite easy once the templates are ready, it can be done while the 3D printed parts are being printed. Besides that the new design will have much fewer parts so it will be easier to print and assemble.

Flight stability due to low aspect ratio sounds logical to me. But I hope very much this is not the only reason because the next step will be, to extend the wingspan from 1,35 m to 1,95 m ;-)
The flaps will extend also, so I hope the stability will not become much worse. If that turns out to work fine I will extend to 2,55 m.
I am afraid, at the latest than I have to think about a stronger motor ;-)

I think a smart combination of traditional building and printing is a decent solution.

I spent this weekend printing the redesigned parts, in the end I was left with only the nose section and the wing tips from the first plane. =D
I still have to finish assembling everything but I think all in all I saved 50/60 grams, may not look like much, but it's 15% of the airframe mass.
It should be ready for a proper maiden flight next weekend, then I'll publish the latest parts, plus original 3D files so that anyone can start fiddling with it to suit their purposes.

Hey! It flies! Well, it flew, about five seconds... either the center of gravity is too far forward or I need more decalage on the elevons, probably the later. The "oops, something is not right let's put it down ASAP" procedure didn't go too well and on the cartwheel landing the rear fuselage cracked. Oh well, I knew that was a weak area and I was already redesigning it so no big deal.
Next weekend I'll try again with after a few tweaks to the design.

I am very interested in building the full size version of this. I hope it flies well. I like the design.

The full sized version will not be 3D printed, it is meant to be used in rough conditions, so it has to be stronger.
However I plan to use 3D printed molds to make a fiberglass fuselage, wings and tail. Of course I will be uploading the files to print the molds here too, so anyone could make one too.

looks to have taken a lot of ideas from here: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:51580http://www.thingiverse.com/thi... ?

UAV design.
by buzz

Actualy no, your plane is a very different design and approach to printing from what I can see.

Would it be possible to print this on a 6 by 6 inch travel printer? Also, any recommendations for electronics? I,m looking to build one of these to use as an ersatz search and rescue uav, so I would need gps, etc. I know that weight would not be ideal with this build, but I wanted to make something that could be used to demonstrate an SAR concept I am thinking of. Nice design, and thanks for posting it!

6 by 6 in X-Y axes, right? That should be enough, but you need 6" (15cm) for the Z axis too.
The electronics I'm planning to install now are an OpenLRS R/C receiver, 2.4GHz FPV video transmitter and an Ardupilot autopilot with GPS. Although first I want to test fly it with just the basic R/C gear installed.
Search and rescue is actually pretty close to the use intended for this plane, or at least the larger final version. I'm doing it to help an NGO to monitor Manta Ray populations near Bali in Indonesia and to have a secondary use to search for missing divers in the area, something that happens with some frequency when they are swept by the strong currents there.
I hope this weekend I'll have enough free time to finish the airframe and install the electronics.

Yes, six inches in x and y and z as well, so I should be good to go.
Great to hear that you are doing such good work with your concept. The public needs to see more of the good things that UAV/UAS systems can do. You don't have to limit their use to surveillance and bombng runs.
Thanks for the electronics specs also. It's been about twenty years since I was into RC planes, so the rate at which everything has changed is amazing!

I have printed all the parts for the plane (except the flaperons) and the total weight for the airframe is 400 grams, the wings alone are 190 grams so it would be a good idea to make them in foam rather than printed; foam wings, even with fiberglass skin, should weight half that much and be much stronger and durable. In fully printed form and ready to fly I guess the all up weight should be 700 grams at least, with a wing loading of 49g/dm2 so it will have to be flown at a good speed.

Which print settings did you use for the wing panels? Foam wings of a meter in span will weigh about 90 grams if you build it REALLY light (as in F3K competition glider light), but you'll need a lot of care and a lot of patience to get useable wings out of it. Perhaps if you printed a standard rib section system and then used covering on it you could save more weight? That or increase the wing span a bit? A 1.5m wing with a narrower cord (like a glider) can lift a lot more, and flies better usually.

I printed the wing panels with a 0.4mm nozzle in spiral vase mode, so the skin is 0.4mm thick. 0.3mm should be still strong enough and maybe 0.25 or even 0.2mm would work, but I need to change the nozzle in my printer to try it.
I'm not sure about a longer wingspan, I think it will have some stability issues unless I'd enlarge the stabilators or increase the tail movement arm. In any case I like shorter wings, they are easy to pack in a suitcase for travel (which I do a lot with my planes).
I'm going on holidays in a couple days and when I come back I'll finish the construction and test fly the plane. Then I'll see which direction to take with the design.

Ah, right. Still wondering if doing a printed built-up structure with covering wouldn't be lighter. Keep us posted!

Still working on it... I've been tweaking the design of the tail section, to save weight there, I want to lighten up that area by at least 10 grams, which doesn't look like much but it does make a difference of 4 or 5mm in the position of the CG.
The fuselage printed with the current files looks like it should balance with a 1600mAh 3C LiPo battery on the nose, but I only have 2 cell batteries of that size, a 3 cell 2200mAh battery certainly does the job, but I think it's too heavy for this size of plane.
Anyway, getting there!

have you flown this yet? is there a video? also why have you done the tail that way up. will it not make it very hard to land?

I haven't flow it yet, still working on the design but there's only two or three small bits left to be done. Maybe tonight I'll re-upload all the STL files with the final-ish version.... so yeah, no videos yet.
The reason for the upside down V-tail is to reduce weight and to protect the belly of the plane so that antennas and/or a camera turret can be mounted underneath without them being damaged on landing, even if a nose wheel is not used.
It shouldn't make it hard to land, in fact another reason I choose that configuration is that it will make landings very definitive! I usually fly from/out of tight spots and with a configuration like this the plane will pitch down when landing and stop in a very short distance.
The drawback is, of course, that the tail is exposed to damage on landing, but then again it's very easy to replace a broken stabilator since they are held in place with two nylon screws. Originally I was designing a folding tail, held together with a rubber band at the bottom so it would act as a shock absorber, but decided to first go with a simpler design and later try different things>

In any case the entire tail section of the plane could be removed and replaced with a different tail configuration, conventional tail or upright V tail... That sort of things will also come later, same as ideas for a twin motor version (very easy to design motor mounts for the wings) for example.

One thing you may want to consider is putting some sort of "snap off" segment on your servo controls - otherwise if they get badly mangled it'll strip the gears on the servo.

I plan to print this and power it with a Cox .049 engine or print it at 60% and use a .020. looking forward to a usable version.

Hmmm...for R/C flight? that may be a bit of a problem, since the plane is meant to use an electric motor with the battery placed quite forward in the nose to get the CG in the right place. With an engine there's no big battery so you'll have to use a lot of ballast in the nose to balance the plane.
I've already printed the entire fuselage and tail so I can check how it balances with a motor and battery, but with just an engine on the back... I don't know.

where is the center of gravity point on the wings?

I think I could mount it on the nose to be honest. where is the center of gravity point on the wings?

I have had some problems with there being holes in the files on the Stabilizer_TipWheel , Fuselage-E, and Fuselage_Joiner_BC

05brando, I'll take a look. I'm working on the design right now (just finished printing a piece for the ailerons).
Please keep in mind this is a work in progress, but comments like yours are very welcome!

OK, I opened the files and didn't see any holes on the STL files; Slic3r gives me some warnings that it autocorrects some faces but otherwise it slices the parts and print them correctly.

Currently refining some parts, I think I have the stabilizers nailed down and I figured out a way to make the ailerons and its hinges. I've been doing some redisigning on the wings to reduce the number of ribs needed and save weight and also experimenting with extrusion widths for the same purpose.
Time permitting I'll upload a new set of revised parts this weekend and that should be close to a ready-to-print design.

So far I have been using PLA for the prints, since my printer is not setup for ABS (no fume extractor), but I've been wondering how the wings, for example, would print in ABS, if someone would like to run an experiment I'd be interested in the results!

Saw this on RCGroups. What airfoil are you using?

Just something I drew up, at this size I don't think the airfoil shape is very critical.

Eh... you'd be surprised about what a good airfoil can do for you in terms of lift / speed capacity. RCGroups has a ton of threads about airfoils if you look in the right places.

I hope your maiden goes well. Cool stuff, nice job!

DennyNC, me too! =D
I just re-uploaded the Stabilizer_TipWheel_L.STL and Stabilizer_TipWheel_R.STL, I noticed they were not properly oriented flat against the print bed.

Nice idea, want to see final. And maiden.

Incredible!!!! Magnificent!!!