Innovation That Matters


Overhead canopy moved by drones

Property & Construction

An overhead canopy can be shifted around by drones to change shape with changing weather conditions.


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At Springwise, we have highlighted a number of ways in which drones could function in construction and maintenance. These have included construction drones controlled by AI and drones that can navigate in the dark. One advantage of using drones in construction is that, unlike cranes and scaffolding, drones have far more access capability. This includes points that are inaccessible to people. For example, drones could build structures in areas inaccessible for heavy machinery. Engineers are also working on ways for drones to carry heavier loads by flying in synchronised fleets that can share the load.

A new system from the Institute for Computational Design and Construction at the University of Stuttgart explores how drones could adapt architecture to changing weather conditions. Dubbed the Cyber Physical Macro Materials project, a team of masters students developed the system. It consists of a self-supporting shade canopy made up of lightweight carbon fibre panels. The panels contain sensors, communications modules and magnets to help them latch on to adjoining panels.

The smart panels connect with drones equipped with grippers. The drones then move the panels around to change the shape and size of the canopy as needed. Algorithms allow the drones to work autonomously to rearrange the panels to keep the crowds below shaded and to add additional panels as crowds grow.

The Stuttgart team writes that the project is about challenging pre-conceived ideas of architectural design and construction. They envision an agile canopy moving through public space, constantly rebuilding itself. At the moment, the project is just a proof-of-concept, as autonomous drones are not allowed in areas that are filled with people. In the future, however, it may be possible to use this technology to re-engineer, repair or maintain city structures to suit changing needs.




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