UAVs: Zurich researchers use drones to build rope bridge, hands-off

The twin UAVs built a bridge capable of supporting a human being

September 21, 2015

Researches from the Department of Mechanical and Process Engineering in Zurich have successfully demonstrated a pair of drones that can autonomously build a rope bridge capable of supporting a human being.

Each of these drones carry their own spool of specialized aerial construction rope called Dyneema that weighs just 7 grams per meter: a 4 mm diameter rope can support up to 1.3 tons. Between the two drones was about 120 meters of rope which was used in this demonstration to construct a bridge spanning 7.5 meters. The only manual role in the entire process was the physical measuring of the location of the scaffolding structure across which the drones constructed the bridge. After feeding the scaffolding placement and dimensional information into the system, the two drones were able to go about the process of building out the rope bridge in tandem, completely unassisted.

This project was demonstrated within an area known as the Flying Machine Arena, which is a portable space aimed at experimenting with autonomous flight. Armed with spatial sensors and motion capture rigs that enable the drones to understand their position in reference to each other, this setup proved to be an ideal environment for these drones to operate in.

Researchers hope the findings from this research will open a whole new segment in automated construction that could find applications as diverse as conventional civil construction to mountaineering.

A video of the demonstration can be found