A drone has been outfitted with a specialized 3D printing gun that dispenses a sticky material, which scientists believe can be used for removal of objects from certain situations. Like a dragon from Reign of Fire, the drone has two chemicals it mixes when firing, creating an epoxy to affix to rather than fiery death from above.
Oddly enough, the inspiration for the drone came from another flying creature, the swiftlet. The small bird uses saliva to build steady nests in windy regions, affixing twigs and other debris into shape. The drone and spewing epoxy gun do much the same; affixing a flying object to itself or another drone with liquid adhesive.
Currently, the drone stays in communication with a laptop, but scientists see a day when it’s essentially self-contained. To scale, the drone could use 3D cameras to appreciate the item it needs to target, and discover an area that would be best for the epoxy to be so a drone could safely lift an item away.
These drones could have a widespread use case, depending on their size and carrying ability. The epoxy could also be specialized to work with varying materials if needed. From bomb detection/removal to simple warehouse operations, this is a pretty neat idea that could actually see the light of day.
The team behind the project sees these drones working in tandem, where one sprays the epoxy while another quickly swoops in to take the item away. Dr Mirko Kovac of the Imperial College of London's Department of Aeronautics said “Like in nature, the robots will have specialised functions and division of labour. Using swarm intelligence, the robots will be able to perform very complex tasks of autonomous inspection and aerial construction effectively. For example, inspection drones will create a 3D scan to detect damage in hazardous environments and a second swarm of construction drones will selectively repair the structure with aerial 3D printing.”
Basically, we have 3D printing drones that work in tandem, can scan items, will use a method of intelligence, and want to usher items out of their way. Save for fire, these are pretty much dragons. We’re in big, big trouble.