Drones are taking on an increasingly wide and varied range of applications, but researchers at Imperial College London believe they will eventually play an invaluable role in disaster zones and other emergency situations.
They suggest that drones could eventually be used to help build emergency shelters for survivors of disasters.
The devices will be equipped with 3D printers that will be capable of excreting materials that can then be used to either repair or build new structures.
Smart disaster relief
The team believe that one of the better applications for the technology is in disaster relief. Emergency situations can present all manner of obstacles that stop relief workers from reaching victims in a timely manner.
By deploying aerial drones, teams could fly to the disaster zone, assess the environment using Building Information Management (BIM) systems, and then design and construct temporary shelters on the spot, thus providing victims with vital support until live emergency personnel can get to them.
This Additive Building Manufacturing (ABM) process is already being tested around the world and involves the construction of machines capable of extracting materials that are then used to construct buildings in the same kind of way as a 3D printer does.
The approach has clear advantages in terms of the reduction in construction times and transportation costs, as well as a reduction in environmental impact.
With tens of thousands of people killed each year on building sites around the world, there are also clear safety implications of automating a lot of the work, and we’ve already seen the potential of robot brick layers.
The Imperial based approach is unique however in that it offers an aerial approach to the task as opposed to the more traditional ground based method that is therefore dependent upon an easily accessible site.
The research team will continue developing the device with the hope that ABM technology will soon be small enough and light enough to offer aerial capabilities and thus bring about the rise in flying mini-factories.
Suffice to say, this is still a little way off, but it’s an exciting glimpse into a possible future for construction.