September 25, 2019

Aerie Designs Creates Drone Control Solution with Injection Molding

By Protolabs

The use of drones for aerial photography and video is placing an increased importance on precision control and comfort for prolonged flights. Stock drone controls are often uncomfortable and lack a fail-safe method if your thumbs slip. Oftentimes there’s only one chance to capture the perfect shot—a slight slip of the controls can be costly.

Trey Trumble and Trip Ivey joined forces to Aerie Designs and solve this drone control problem. Trey has more than five years of drone aviation experience and has been filming with drones professionally for three years. Trip, an industrial designer, has spent the last seven years designing yachts. The two are combining their expertise to develop products for the quickly growing drone market.

We spoke with the two founders to learn the challenges they had to overcome during the product development process and how they used advanced injection molding finishing options to further enhance their molded parts.

Can you start off by sharing the product Aerie Designs has been working on?

We developed a replacement control grip for common drone controllers that cradles the thumbs for increased control and comfort.

What would you say were some of the big challenges you encountered during design? How many prototypes did you have to work through?

The molds developed for Aerie's control knob included mold texturing for enhanced feel and threaded inserts for attachment to standard drone controllers.

Where to begin… Every step we’ve taken on our development journey has required 10 steps that were not planned for or expected. It has been a challenge to align our business plan and financial forecasts with an evolving design.

We developed at least 20 prototypes along this concept direction. Proportions, fit, texture, openings, draft angles, size, laser engraving… New criteria would suddenly emerge from our test group that was important to integrate into the design.

Did Protolabs’ automated design analysis or applications engineers help during the process?

Yes, most of the Protolabs team has been incredibly supportive and patient. It felt as though they became a part of the Aerie Team. As we investigated textures and and other finishing processes, we worked with the team to modify draft angles.

What processes did you use to manufacture your prototypes and final parts?

We used insert molding to manufacture the control knobs, since the design included threaded fasteners. We also used mold texturing and laser engraving to further enhance the feel of the controls and overall aesthetics.


What material will the control knob be molded with for production?

We'll be molding our final design in ABS plastic for its longevity and future color options. The material is easy to mold and the most economical for our application.

How many parts have you manufactured at Protolabs thus far?

We’ve done about a dozen 3D-printed prototypes, and have 50 injection molding samples from our mold. We actually just placed a production order of 6,000 parts!

What does the future at Aerie Designs look like?

Right now we are working to expand our product selection with a new control grip that will fit a different style of drone controller. We’ll continue to work with Protolabs for additional tooling and on-demand manufacturing.