University researchers create networked flying robots that build complex structures

Imagine a future where massive, flying robots assemble complex structures like skyscrapers or houses, with all the machines working as one, coordinated through a wireless network and custom algorithm.

Granted, a similar process already takes place today on a much smaller scale, albeit guided by human pilots.

But with the potential for human error eliminated, construction times could be drastically reduced. Ultimately, a hyper-streamlined system could result in thousands of construction jobs being eliminated and a surge in urban sprawl.

Such an invention, properly scaled upward, would be simply revolutionary — and that radical vision, scarcely imagined even in science fiction, took its first step toward becoming a reality in 2011.

University of Pennsylvania PhD candidate Daniel Mellinger, in a project by the school’s GRASP Lab (General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception), created a set of flying, networked robot builders that can quickly and accurately assemble structures made out of magnetic rods.

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