Researchers at University of Pennsylvania’s GRASP Lab (General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception) have recently been working with quadrocopters, perfecting the stability, control, and interaction of these miniature flying helicopters. Now, they have created a system whereby a group of such autonomous quadrocopters can cooperate to construct a rudimentary structure. There are obvious limitations – the size and weight of the beams, the complexity of the final structure, and the need for magnetic joints. Nonetheless, the results are impressive:
It is even more fascinating to consider what such research may eventually lead to. Cranes, tractors, and other vehicles are common in construction today. However, all the modern methods are incredibly labor-intensive and require long periods of time. So why not use robots?
Larger-scale robotic quadrocopters (most likely paired with robotic vehicles of various other specialisations), were some limitations overcome, would be able to work rapidly, efficiently, and literally non-stop. Such an operation would require minimal human supervision, would (theoretically) be faultless, and save money in all aspects.
So with a bit of hopeful thinking, such a building method could be deployed in the construction of tomorrow’s metropolis. Furthermore, it may be ideal for the military – swarms of autonomous quadrocopters could land ahead of the ground forces, analyse some pre-prepared architectural plan, modify it in respect to the surrounding landscape, use it to throw together a temporary barracks in record time, and leave with no threat to human life. Perhaps DARPA should take a look.
Meanwhile, the rest of us can wait for the technology to trickle down, and hope that the intelligent, rotor blade-slashing, self-stabilising flying helicopters don’t one day turn against us.[Via Engadget]