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The flying robots that build brick towers
The Swiss prove that a swarm of flying bee-like robots can build a 20-foot-high structure. What about a 2,000-foot skyscraper?
A robotic helicopter bee places a polystyrene brick onto a 20-foot tower being constructed by four robots at an exhibit in France.
A robotic helicopter bee places a polystyrene brick onto a 20-foot tower being constructed by four robots at an exhibit in France.
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he video: A Swiss team is betting that the future of construction lies not with men, but with machines — specifically, swarms of "robotic helicopter bees" that can build brick structures from a blueprint without input from humans. While at work, the robots "reserve air space on one of two 'freeways'" to prevent any mid-air collisions, and use a "specially designed gripper to hold and place the bricks." To demonstrate, ETH Zurich robotics expert Raffaello D'Andrea and a team of experimental architects are having four of their autonomous quadcopter flying robots build a complex 20-foot tower using 1,500 polystyrene bricks, in an exhibition in Orléans, France. (Watch a video below.) The circular structure is a 1:100 scale model of a "vertical village" designed to house 30,000 people.

The reaction: While an exciting step forward for robotics and architecture, this is "bad news for unemployed construction workers hoping for a bright future building next-generation skyscrapers," says John Roach at MSNBC. That is, if there really are 30,000 people willing to live in a 2,000-foot-tall "vertical village" built by flying robots. As unsettling as these robots may be, says Tim Hornyak at CNET News, the "gawkers" in France have "no apparent fear of the busy little cyber-creatures." Watch them at work:

 

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