Dronestruction: Watch Drones Build a Working Rope Bridge


We all know that drones can safely go where humans cannot, but one other big upside is their potential to (sometimes literally) pave the way for people to follow, by doing things like weaving together physical bridges that can support a person’s weight.

drone walking bridge design

As this video from the RTH Zurich Flying Machine Arena shows, a set of quadcopters can be programmed to braid and knot a sturdy rope bridge in midair. The effect is surprisingly graceful, each drone managing to avoid the other as they swoop back and forth in the room. The low strength-to-weight ratio of the materials deployed makes it possible for lightweight drones to construct surprisingly capable structures.

Motion-capture devices were used to map the space, taking positional measurements around which the drones could then operate. Nothing was left to human hands – even the tie-offs and other connections were completed automatically by drone. While scaffolding was provided in this case, there is no fundamental reason why the same drones could not work with existing supports in nature like rocks or trees. The open question: what will we call the works and processes of this new breed of robotic builders? Droneconstruction sounds a little too much like deconcstruction, but options are still open.

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See more in Robotics or under Technology. January, 2016.