Now here is a useful trick to teach a drone. Experts from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology have written software that allows a set of drones, working in concert, to build a rope bridge capable of carrying a man’s weight. The rope bridge completed in the proof-of-concept was 24 feet. I can already see the practical applications.
A team of scientists have taught several drones to build a rope bridge suspended from a pair of scaffold platforms.
The drones carry the rope and using a range of highly elaborate manoeuvers wrap it around each platform.
The experts from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology even get the drones to ‘braid’ the rope around itself.
Once completed, the rope bridge, which stretches across 24 feet. It is also capable of supporting the weight of an adult human.
The flying machines are able to measure the distance between the two towers before designing and building the rope bridge automatically.
The machines do not need to be flown manually as the software completes the calculations and co-ordinates the intricate flying.
Curious to see the drones in action?
Building a rope bridge with flying machines
The video shows quadrocopters autonomously assembling a rope bridge. This is part of a body of research in aerial construction, a field that addresses the construction of structures with the aid of flying machines.
In this work, a rope bridge that can support the crossing of a person is built by quadrocopters, showing for the ﬁrst time that small ﬂying machines are capable of autonomously realizing load-bearing structures at full-scale and proceeding a step further towards real-world scenarios. Except for the required anchor points at both ends of the structure, the bridge consists exclusively of tensile elements and its connections and links are entirely realized by ﬂying machines. Spanning 7.4 m between two scaffolding structures, the bridge consists of nine rope segments for a total rope length of about 120 m and is composed of different elements, such as knots, links, and braids.
The rope used for these experiments is made out of Dyneema, a material with a low weight-to-strength ratio and thus suitable for aerial construction. Of little weight (7 g per meter), a 4 mm diameter rope can sustain 1300 kg.
The vehicles are equipped with a motorized spool that allows them to control the tension acting on the rope during deployment. A plastic tube guides the rope to the release point located between two propellers. The external forces and torques exerted on the quadrocopter by the rope during deployment are estimated and taken into account to achieve compliant ﬂight behavior.
In order to be able to design tensile structures that are buildable with flying robots, a series of computational tools have been developed, specifically addressing the characteristics of the building method. The design tools allow to simulate, sequence, and evaluate the structure before building.
The location of the scaffolding structure is measured before starting the construction. The primary and bracing structure can then be realized without human intervention. Before realizing the stabilizers, the locations of the narrow openings of the bridge are measured and input to the system, which adapts the trajectories accordingly.
Related roboHub article: http://robohub.org/watch-flying-machi…