Watch this team of drones 3D-print a tower

Watch this team of drones 3D-print a tower

A mini-swarm of drones has been trained to work together in order to 3D-print simple towers. The team behind the method hopes that the method will one day be used to help with difficult projects like post-disaster reconstruction or repairs to buildings that are too high for safety.

The process is inspired by the way wasps and bees build large nests. Multiple drones work together to build a single blueprint. Each drone checks the work of the others. One drone deposits a layer, while the other verifies that everything has been printed accurately. While the drones fly autonomously, a human can monitor them and intervene if necessary.

To demonstrate the drones’ capabilities the researchers used foam and a lightweight cement form to build structures with heights of 0. 18 meters to 2. 05 meters. They were built within 5 millimeters from the original blueprint.

Then, to demonstrate that the system can work on more complex formations the team used the lights from the drones to create light-trail sequences as they simulated building a tall dome-like structure. Their work is described in a paper in Nature today.

Mirko Kovac, director at the Aerial Robotics Lab at Imperial College London, led the research. He said that the method could be used for building tall buildings, such as those on Mars or the Arctic, or to repair expensive scaffolding.

The technique is limited for now because drones struggle to carry heavy loads, need regular charging, and still require human supervision. Researchers say they hope to address some of these issues by automating drone charging during projects. This is currently done by humans.

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