Use cases and solutions
Thursday, 29 September 2022

Building houses with swarms of drones

Can you imagine drones building houses? A team of scientists from the Imperial College London and EMPA studied how drones can be part of making the constructing industry greener and safer. What if we can construct and build houses by combining 3D printing technology with drones. The idea of drone-assisted construction was inspired by bees. These insects use a technique called ‘’weaving’’ to build their nests and they create large yet interesting intricate structures while they work autonomously together. The team of researchers were inspired by this phenomenon and envisioned a future where swarms of drones could be used to build houses and they turned that vision into reality.

How does constructing with drones work?

The drone-assisted construction is a very detailed 3D printer on a drone and these two innovations together are programmed by the engineers in a way that they can deposit a material like cement. The researchers used scanning drones which fly in with a camera and scan everything that’s been printed so far. This information can then guide the printing drones to exactly the right spot. The drone needs to stay in the right spot every time so therefore the team came up with a printhead that adjusts the position to compensate for the movement of the drone. This results in millimetre scale precision and intricate filigree-like printing. Because the drones need to work efficiently together, they designed them to be semi-autonomous and able to adapt to changes as they’re building.

The big challenges for realizing drone building

Combining a drone with a 3D printer was a huge challenge for the Engineers. To make them work effectively was even more of a hassle. One of the biggest challenges was to provide accuracy. They had to ensure that a tall structure is stable and each layer needs to overlay precisely onto the one below. Getting the drones to stay in the right spot was also tricky, drones tend to drift during flight, especially outdoors. The engineers also had to create a new cement like material since the material had to be lightweight, otherwise it would’ve been too hard to carry. In fact every element on the drone needed to be as light as possible to save energy.

Why drone builds are great opportunities for the future of constructing

The idea of 3D printing a house is one that’s already been put into practice with ground-based printers but the researchers thinks that aerial printer could play a useful role in less accessible places like in mountains or in disaster zones. This practice could also be used to repair things like facades pylons or pipelines without the need to build scaffolding. The idea is that 3D printing houses or shelters is more environmentally friendly and for sure more sustainable then traditional construction methods. With traditional constructing you often affect the environment by affecting the biodiversity, harming the natural resources and by creating atmospheric effects and there is the risk of fatal accidents. This way of constructing could be an important part in making construction greener in the future, because it preserves the environment better and aims for cleaner and safer projects.

The future of drone building is really exciting and revolutionary technology wise and future wise. By changing the ways of working in the future drone building can make a huge impact on construction and making the industry more green and safe.

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Source: Aerial additive manufacturing with multiple autonomous robots

 

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