Building like bees

Swarms of bees as models for drones in construction: Empa has tested drones that work in teams under human control to 3D print materials for building or repairing structures.

Construction workers offroad: In areas that are difficult to access, drones could one day erect constructions in teamwork.

The new approach to 3D printing uses flying robots. These are drones that use collective building methods - inspired by natural builders such as bees and wasps. This was reported by scientists from an international research team led by drone expert Mirko Kovac from Empa and Imperial College London.

The system, called "Aerial Additive Manufacturing" (Aerial-AM), consists of a fleet of drones that work together for a single construction plan. It includes so-called "BuilDrones", which print materials and place them in the intended locations during flight, and "ScanDrones", which are used for quality control and continuously record the performance of the "BuilDrones". They specify the upcoming production steps.

Fewer risks and lower costs

The Aerial AM system is designed so that the drones can adapt their activity to the different geometries of the structure as the construction process progresses. A human "controller" observes the process and makes adjustments as needed - based on the information provided by the drones.

The trials so far have given the researchers confidence. According to them, the drones could facilitate construction and repair in hard-to-reach areas such as high-rise buildings and save costs.

Written by: sda

Photos: Yusuf Kaya / Imperial College London / Empa

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