Layer after layer and dot after dot are placed as the computer reads the code, slowly, but magically, building drone propellers. For freshman Henry Lambert, this is just another day.
When Lambert was younger, he bought a small drone that flew fairly slowly. His interest grew when he did research and found a company that makes larger drones, and saved up his money to buy one, he said.
Lambert has been doing 3D printing for three years, but just recently started getting into drone building and racing, as his interest with drones grew. Lambert said he has his own 3D printer to print parts, but also has access to 20 other 3D printers.
“I’d say [racing drones] is the hardest thing I’ve ever attempted,” Lambert said.
Lambert is a part of the Aerial Sports League, a drone racing league, where he competes in many races and combats with the drones he constructs using 3D printing. Most of the people he races against are adults, Lambert said.
“We race them about the length of Witter Field,” Lambert said. “It can be anywhere from 100 yards to a few miles. Most [races] are pretty short.”
Douglas Burnet, founder of Aerial Sports League, said he noticed that Lambert has lots of skill and passion when it comes to flying drones.
“Drones for sport are typically smaller, about dinner plate-sized, around ten inches across.” Burnet said. “Increasingly popular are palm-sized drones. There’s also an emerging class of large-scale drones, which are a meter across, even bigger, and being flown at incredibly fast speeds.”
Being skilled at both 3D printing and drone flying is the ultimate package, Burnet said.
“The reality with drone racing is that things break, so being able to print a new part on the fly, to replace a broken part, is a great plus,” Burnet said. “It also allows anybody to try out different engineering solutions.”
Lambert was a part of Piedmont Pioneers, the PMS robotics team, during his time at the middle school. It was there that he met 3D printing mentor, Ollie Krause, a freshman at Lick-Wilmerding High School.
“He started flying drones, and I started flying drones, and now we are close,” Krause said.
The two ran a 3D printing camp at Redwood Day School this past summer, and are looking to further educate people about drones outside the country by running a camp in Rwanda this summer.
“The people in Rwanda that we may work with want us to teach the staff and students about 3D printing, and plant that seed,” Krause said. “So that the staff can continue to teach the students, and run them on their own in the future.”
As for Lambert’s future, the possibilities are endless.
“In terms of what he can do with his future, if he can dream it, he can build it,” Burnet said. “He’s got no limitations, and the sky’s the limit.”