Published by IEEE
By Taylor Donovan Barnett
Drones with fully autonomous capabilities are inevitable at this point. Besides delivering your pizza or a package from Amazon, there are a lot of practical uses for drones. A group of researchers at the University of Pennslyvania have unveiled how drones can potentially shape the way we build things in the future.
Part of the ModLab research group and lead by Bruno Teles Gabrich, researchers from UPenn, have created an impressive series of modular flying robots that can assemble themselves while in flight. The small little quadrotor drones are agile and easily able to move, even with their magnetic cuboid frames. The drones are able to travel rapidly vertically or horizontally. As described by the team, "The module is based on a quadrotor platform within a cuboid frame which allows it to attach to other modules by matching vertical faces."
Like something reminiscent of Transformers or Voltron, the robots can assemble to create shapes and forms while hovering above the ground. As demonstrated in the video, the robot drones take to the air, slowly moving closer to each other so that they can snap into place to form their designated shape.
The ModQuad system resembles that of other biological systems like ant or bee colonies. As you are well aware, these colonies require these hives to operate together to accomplish difficult tasks. Impressively the drones can coordinate and operate autonomously to form their structures.
The ModQuad could be used to tackle difficult problems in the engineering world as well. Maybe an there is an area that requires a bridge but is too difficult for builders to navigate. Drones like these could be used to tackle these problems with minimal effort and resources.