The robotics department at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich is working to perfect quadcopter drones that can fly autonomously to tie and weave cables for use in construction at elevations too dangerous for humans to access on a regular basis.
According to lead researcher Federico Augugliaro, “There is no physical connection with the ground, so they can move construction elements to any location, and fly in and around existing structures.”
These quadcopters are directed by a central computer fitted with a camera that observes their every movement. The computer directs each spider-drone autonomously to form structures by tying, weaving, and looping plastic cables in the air.
Augugliaro’s research partner Ammar Mirjan envisions the day when specially progammed quadcopters will be able to build structures “like a bridge or a connection between existing building.”
There are, of course, several other research firms around the world looking to use drones to weave not just cables in the air, but also free standing structures by moving blocks and beams. The MIT Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts and the General Robotics Automation Sensing and Perception Lab at the University of Pennsylvania are both expanding the capabilities of drones to construct the buildings of the future.