Researchers coax quadrotor drones to build a rope bridge

Typically, when we think of a quad rotor drone, we think of it as a platform for photography with many having photo and video capability. Some drones are also able to do other things like autonomously follow their owner. Researchers from ETH Zurich and an architecture firm called Gramazio Kohler Research have decided to try something a bit different with two drones.

The drones in question were used to build a rope bridge that spanned a gap between two platforms measuring 7.4 meters across. The drones needed a total of 120 meters of rope and flew in a highly orchestrated pattern using multiple techniques to build the rope bridge.

The drones flew in patterns to knot, link, and braid the polyethylene fiber providing a high strength-to-weight ratio. The quadrotors did have some other special features to help them with the task, such as a plastic tube to help with the rope and prevent it from being tangled in the rotors and spools to keep tension on the rope.

The drones also needed an external localization system to get them to perform the required accurate placement to build the bridge. The implication with this system is that someday disaster workers might be able to pull some quadrotors out of a backpack and build bridges to help get stranded people to safety.

SOURCE: Spectrum