Construction with Quadrotors

Robots already build cars, sort mail and clean homes, but when you add four helicopter rotors to one, things start getting really interesting.

Using unmanned aerial vehicles called quadrotors, a team of Penn Engineering graduate students has built an autonomous airborne construction crew able to build small towers.

The two mechanical engineering students, Quentin Lindsey and Daniel Mellinger, working with the School of Engineering and Applied Science's Deputy Dean for Education Vijay Kumar, are taking the web by storm with a video of the quadrotors in action.

The flying robots are not controlled by humans. Given instructions on what to build, and provided with special building blocks they can easily connect, the robots work together to monitor their own progress, decide on next steps, and assess the stability of the structure they are building.

Lindsey, Mellinger, and Kumar's work was done through Penn's General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception (GRASP) Lab. The GRASP Lab is one of Penn Engineering's most innovative centers, developing mechanical systems with increasingly human-like senses and abilities. GRASP’s robotic soccer team, the UPennalizers, last year traveled to Singapore to compete in the 2010 RoboCup; other projects in the department’s portfolio include self-assembling machines and self-driving cars.

More videos of the quadrotors showing off can be found on Daniel Mellinger’s YouTube Channel.

Text by Evan Lerner