Drones with 3D printers: the masons of the future?


CATEGORY: Building BRAND: Aerial ABM

A UK research center has shown that high-rise buildings can be built using additive manufacturing



Aerial Building Fabrication is UK EPSRC-funded research that will develop an aerial robotic construction (ABM) system that enables aerial robots to autonomously print 3D building structures. The manufacture of aerial buildings is already being tested in many parts of the world and involves the use of large robots on a construction site to print (extrude) 3D building materials to erect buildings. The research aims to miniaturize ABM and provide it with aerial capabilities so that it can be more mobile and capable of fabricating complex building structures while adapting to various buildable scenarios. This miniaturization will also enable parallel production, where swarms of aerial printers working together could potentially reduce build time and enable safer construction in hazardous and hard-to-reach conditions; who are often faced with high-rise construction work or disaster reconstruction.


Automated Construction in unstructured environments Aerial robots with the ability to build structures autonomously would be invaluable in many applications: building temporary shelters after natural disasters like earthquakes and floods, deploying scaffolding and support structures on conventional construction sites, or assembling ramps through gaps and difficult terrain to allow access to ground vehicles. However, building in unstructured environments would require aerial robots that adapt to terrain and unique layouts of individual physical sites.


A framework for collective construction with multiple robots would be needed to enable collaborative robot-to-robot operations, dynamic task sharing, and collision avoidance. Materials of construction would need to be lightweight to meet the payload and battery life limitations of aerial robots, but also versatile to meet the requirements of a wide variety of tasks in target environments. The goal is to develop new autonomous manufacturing methods by investigating techniques to build physical structures with aerial robots. This quest is multidisciplinary, combining unconventional building materials, behavioral building algorithms, and swarm control of aerial robot builders. The work is heavily inspired by the way animals such as birds and bees build structures using environmental material in combination with adhesives and intricate architectural designs.



Current focus areas of work include:


• Robot and Mechanism Designs for Aerial Construction Custom aerial robots, mechanisms and hardware that are designed and optimized for construction tasks, including the deployment of traction elements and the deposit of amorphous materials.

• Algorithms for automated collective construction and assembly Framework for autonomous construction using swarm intelligence, task assignment and sharing, reactive response to dynamic environmental conditions such as

• Design of materials and structures Development of lightweight materials with specific specifications and properties for aerial construction and deposition procedures for the construction of free-form structures.


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