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Insect-inspired Drones Build Structures

Insect-Inspired Drones Build Structures

Goinyk Production/ShutterStock.com

Two London-based roboticists, Mirko Kovac and Robert Stuart-Smith, have developed new technology that mimics the way bees work together to build a structure. They used two free-flying drones to build a human-sized tower. The “build drone” carried expanding foam and sprayed it in slow, steady circles to form layers, while the “scan drone” surveyed the structure and identified spots where the last layer was either too thin or too thick, and it then created a plan for the build drone to even things out on the next pass to keep the structure straight and sturdy. 


In a second demonstration of the technology, the drones made a cylinder the size of a large round cake using a cement-like material. The duo exhibited a great deal of precision in stacking the material to within millimeters. 


The team plans to take the drones outdoors to deal with the elements and add to the complexity of the objectives and number of drones involved. If the technology can be perfected, these collaborative construction drones could be used in places where it is difficult for humans and heavy machinery to reach, like the tops of buildings, remote pipelines and disaster areas.

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