Teamwork on the ground and in the air

An interdisciplinary team from Imperial College London and Empa have developed a drone that can print concrete. If several drones act as a team and additionally interact with ground robots and 3D printers, robotic ecosystems are created which may revolutionize the construction industry.

Drones are already being used to inspect structures and identify damaged areas. In the future, drones will also be used to repair these areas.

To turn this vision into reality, Mirko Kovač joined forces with scientists from the fields of architecture, computer science and materials science. The multidisciplinary team succeeded in printing a 27-layer cylindrical concrete structure from the air.

The greatest difficulty is the changing environmental conditions. A second drone, which surveys the object and registers the construction progress, optimizes the construction process by providing constant feedback to the printer drone. Such drone duos allow the construction of complex and fragile structures at high altitudes, but also repairs to objects such as wind turbines, which can only be reached by workers at high risk.

In the future, it is conceivable that actual robotic ecosystems will be built that include not only drones but also classic robots and 3D printers - not to replace humans, but to relieve them where it is dangerous. The proof of concept has been done and a corresponding platform has been developed.

Speaker: Prof. Mirko Kovač, Head Laboratory of Sustainability Robotics