Imagine construction sites buzzing with robotic crews.
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A recent study takes us one step closer to that reality, thanks to a remotely-operated team of flying construction robots.
University College London, Department of Computer Science, London. Dr Vijay M. Pawar & Robert Stuart-Smith, Autonomous Manufacturing Lab
This week in the journal Nature, researchers describe a drone-powered crew that can build stable structures out of foam and cement-like materials.
The mighty crew includes BuilDrone, a robot that carries a 3D printer and deposits materials layer by layer.
Its companion robot, ScanDrone, assesses the accuracy and quality of BuilDrone’s work after it places each layer.
The final product was built within 5 mm of accuracy — the standard for buildings in the U.K.
Like many robots, these drones were inspired by nature — specifically the nest-building behaviors of potter wasps, barn swallows, and termites.
For example, the drones could be used to create shelters after a natural disaster or fix facades on tall buildings.
“Although these experiments successfully validate the feasibility of [aerial 3D printing], they are just the first steps in exploring the potential of using aerial robots for construction.”
Kovac et al. Nature / Imperial College London, University College London, University of Bath
Limitations such as the materials the drones can print with, how they’ll work in larger teams, and the size of structures they can build will pose future challenges to sort out.
But if all goes well, we could see a future where robotic crews buzz over construction sites.