Scientists to develop flying robots that can print buildings in disaster zones
UK researchers have been given more than $3m to try and develop robots that can swarm into disaster zones and print emergency shelters.
Universities and companies including BuroHappold and Dyson have four years to combine a suite of technologies – including autonomous drones, miniaturised 3D printing and artificial “swarm intelligence” – that would allow the robots to build life-saving structures in places that are too dangerous or difficult for construction teams to get to.
The concept sees swarms of drones scanning and modelling the landscape and using building information modelling (BIM) systems to print structures on the spot from scratch.
The researchers say that the world’s first “Aerial Additive Building Manufacturing System” (Aerial ABM) could even revolutionise conventional construction by miniaturising 3D print capability, giving it autonomy, and putting it in the air.
“In the first instance the drones would fly to the site and just observe what is happening,” explained Dr. Mirko Kovac, research leader and director of the Aerial Robotics Laboratory at Imperial College London in a podcast this week.
“Once the site has been identified where for example shelters would be needed, then we can create the virtual model on the computer offsite, away in a safe zone, then send the drones with those materials on board to, in swarms, construct those types of shelters.”
Kovac said the geometries of the buildings would most likely be domes or other self-supporting types of structures.
Swarms working together
The four-year project, which has received a $3.3m (£2.3m) grant from the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, involves researchers from Imperial College, the University of Bath and University College London.
Industry partners include the innovative vacuum cleaner maker Dyson, engineering consultancy BuroHappold, contractor Skanska, Dutch 3D print firm Ultimaker, and the UK’s BRE Trust.
In a research brief, Imperial College London said it had already flown drones that can extrude 3D print material in the air, and had also simulated swarms of drones planning and making things autonomously and collaboratively....MOREHT:Curbed(!)
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