Watch These Drones Build a Bridge Out of Rope

When quadcopters play cat’s cradle, they build bridges.

ETH Zurich

Who needs to sling webs when you have rope-spinning drones?

That’s the gist of a new project from Swiss science university ETH Zurich, in which quadcopters work in tandem to weave a bridge. Humans tell the drones where the anchor points should go, and the drones take care of knotting, spanning, and braiding.

It hasn’t yet been tested out of the lab, where the elements might make it a bit tougher to actually build a bridge. In the comfy confines of a lab, however, the resulting bridge looks like something you’d find at a playground, navigable by humans with only a little difficulty. Except, this obstacle course is built from 120 meters of high specific-strength Dyneema rope. A plastic tube along the side of the drone helps the rope unspool smoothly:

There are the obvious architectural and construction applications — small drones, which normally couldn’t carry heavy loads, can assist by stringing rope across a space — as well as the presumable military potential: If a November 1899 issue of Toronto’s The Mail and Empire is to be believed, the tactical importance of bridges cannot be understated. A 100 years later, we have more things that fly, sure, but sometimes you gotta get over that river without getting your feet wet.