A General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) MQ-20 Avenger unmanned air vehicle has conducted the in-flight release of an Advanced Air-Launched Effects (A2LE) platform that was produced via additive manufacturing.

The work took place at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah on 28 November 2023, says GA-ASI.

Divergent GA-ASI

Source: GA-ASI

The A2LE demonstration vehicle was produced entirely using additive manufacturing

GA-ASI worked with Divergent Technologies to produce the A2LE demonstration vehicle, which it says it was able to do rapidly and at low cost.

“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,” says Mike Atwood, vice-president of advanced programmes at GA-ASI.

“A2LE demonstrates the coupling of GA-ASI’s pedigreed aircraft design capabilities with Divergent’s [Adaptive Production System], 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.”

The A2LE demonstration vehicle was 100% produced using additive manufacturing and was able to meet the captive carriage and ejection loads of the MQ-20’s weapons bay.

GA-ASI says the work shows that significant efficiencies come about from incorporating additive manufacturing early in the design process.

Large numbers of air-launched effects are seen as an essential tool in future warfare, allowing a number of payloads to be deployed using small, low-cost platforms.

“A network of A2LEs could create a persistent, expansive grid for surveillance, attack, enemy air defence suppression, or communication pathways, supporting and elevating capabilities of current and future manned or unmanned platforms,” says GA-ASI.

According to its LinkedIn page, Divergent helps companies in the automotive, aerospace, and defence industries automatically assemble complex structures.