Sponsored By
Clare Goldsberry

April 14, 2016

3 Min Read
Airbus, Local Motors launch co-creation challenge to develop commercial drones

Global aircraft manufacturer Airbus Group (Toulouse, France) and Local Motors (Phoenix, AZ), which has achieved fame in the past two years with its 3D-printed car, have launched a global co-creation challenge to identify the next generation of commercial drone technology. The two companies are inviting amateurs and professionals alike into a joint project that includes a series of co-creation activities, online competitions, open-source projects and hackathons, all focused on designing next-generation commercial drones.

The Airbus Cargo Drone Challenge, which launched April 12, seeks specifically to identify designs for drone aircraft capable of vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) and efficient forward fight. The challenge is taking place on Local Motors’ innovative co-creation platform.

Part of the inspiration behind this challenge is to identify better ways to transport medical supplies when time is of the essence and a life could be hanging in the balance, said a release from the two companies. Imagine a doctor deep in the jungle having the ability to order urgently needed drugs from a hospital 100 miles away.

Rendering of potential drone application provided by Airbus.

“As Local Motors and Airbus Group progress in this challenge, we expect our co-creation community to deliver the kind of amazing ideas that help us build the world’s first co-created vehicle and 3D-printed car,” said Local Motors CEO Jay Rogers. “As we harness the power of the crowd, Airbus will have the ability to iterate on commercial drones faster than ever before. This will be a much-needed shot in the arm for civil drone development.”

This initial co-creation challenge will run through June 5 and offer $117,500 in total prize money. The evaluation of each entry will be conducted by a jury of experts in the field before potentially becoming part of an industrial program from Airbus.

“The initiative is really exciting and we are eager to see how the power of co-creation can accelerate new, innovative thinking around commercial drones,” said Jana Rosenmann, Head of Unmanned Aerial Systems with Airbus Group.

Assisting Local Motors and Airbus Group on this challenge is Praxis Aerospace Concepts International Inc., which will bring its deep, technological experience in commercialization of robotics and unmanned systems to the project.

Online challenges part of Local Motors' DNA

Product co-creation challenges and partnerships are not new to Local Motors, which uses online challenges to tap into the brightest and most creative minds in the world. The company launched its first design challenge two years ago with its first 3D-printed car, offering winning entries $10,000 in prize money. In August 2014, Local Motors announced the new vehicle design challenge, also offering the winners more than $10,000 in prize money. In November 2014, the company announced the ModMen Challenge to “hack up” and modify a 3D-printed vehicle, just like they would any other car.

A year ago this month, with more than 250 conceptual designs submitted, Local Motors, in partnership with the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) announced the winner of the Lightweighting Technologies Enabling Comprehensive Automotive Redesign (LITECAR) challenge. The design challenge served to accelerate innovative ideas by using novel material technologies, structural designs, energy-absorbing materials and unique methods of manufacturing to reduce vehicle curb weight while maintaining current U.S. automotive safety standards.

The winner, Andres Tovar, a mechanical engineering assistant professor at the School of Engineering and Technology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, received the $60,000 grand prize for his “pioneering vehicle design concept.” Five other entries received monetary awards totaling $90,000 for their innovative designs.

Last September, Local Motors and the University of Nevada – Las Vegas announced a partnership to create a research and development program for new automotive technologies. UNLV’s new Drones and Autonomous Systems Lab (DASL) will work with Local Motors to create autonomous, or self-driving, systems for cars. The partnership is part of Local Motors LOCO program, short for Local Motors Co-Created program to help facilitate technology transfer into commercial value.

About the Author(s)

Clare Goldsberry

Until she retired in September 2021, Clare Goldsberry reported on the plastics industry for more than 30 years. In addition to the 10,000+ articles she has written, by her own estimation, she is the author of several books, including The Business of Injection Molding: How to succeed as a custom molder and Purchasing Injection Molds: A buyers guide. Goldsberry is a member of the Plastics Pioneers Association. She reflected on her long career in "Time to Say Good-Bye."

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