Scientists have invented drones that can build houses

The picture shows the 3D printing of a 2.05-meter-high foam cylinder, illustrating that the entire system can build larger structures. It takes 1 BuilDrone to build and 1 layer printed in 24 seconds, and the entire structure takes 29 minutes. A ScanDrone was built with an RGBD sensor to measure the average height of the top layer. Image courtesy of the author

By deploying a large number of BuilDrones and multiple round trips, larger structures can be built. As shown in the simulation, the parabolic profile printing with a diameter of 2.5 meters on the bottom surface requires the deployment of 3 flying robots. Image courtesy of the author

Scientists at Imperial College London in the UK have demonstrated a group of animal-inspired flying robots that can build 3D printed structures in flight. The study, published Sept. 21 in Nature, shows that future flying robots could support the construction of homes or critical infrastructure in remote or hard-to-reach locations.

Ground-based robots have been developed for on-site construction because they are safer and more productive than human builders. But these robots are limited by the maximum height at which they can be operated, and large systems need to be plugged into a power source, which reduces the maneuverability of such robots. In contrast, architects in nature – such as wasps, termites and housebirds – are highly flexible and adapt to flight-assisted nests.

Inspired by these natural architects, Mirko Kovac of Tun Imperial College and colleagues devised a new manufacturing method that uses a group of tetherless aerial robots to build their own 3D structures in clusters under human supervision. They developed BuilDrone (building drones) placement materials, ScanDrone (scanning drones) to assess structural quality.

The robots built proof-of-concept cylinders using foam and cement-like materials, 2.05 meters and 0.18 meters high, respectively. The construction accuracy of these structures is very high, reaching 5 mm, which is acceptable in the British architectural requirements.

The researchers believe that with further development, future aerial robots could help build structures in hard-to-reach areas, such as hazardous areas, extremely high places, or remote areas at risk of natural disasters. (Source: China Science Daily, Feng Lifei)

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