Scientists at ETH Zurich have been working since July 2012 on aerial construction, which is basically exactly what it sounds like. The idea is to use small quadcopters to build structures that humans can then use. In this case, they made a rope bridge.
This achievement may not sound terribly impressive until you learn what goes into making a rope bridge. First, the small drones must be able to control the tension on the spool of rope so they can create braids, links, and knots as necessary. Then there’s the problem of working in tandem around preexisting structures, all without flying into anything or getting tangled up in the rope. Once the main portion of the bridge is completed, the quadcopters tie on the stabilizing portions, which requires additional calculations.
The little quadcopters use a plastic tube to guide the rope so that it’s never in danger of getting tangled up in the rotors. The specific kind of rope used to build the bridge, Dyneema, was chosen for its good weight-to-strength ratio, meaning that the quadcopters can maneuver around with it easily while still building bridges that can support people.
The Institute for Dynamic Systems and Control, which works on drones, and the Chair of Architecture and Digital Fabrication, which works on structures, are the two ETH Zurich groups that collaborated. We can’t wait to see what they can build in the future with more than three quadcopters.
Via: Popular Mechanics