Drones and 3D printers are buzzwords in today’s technology industry and a team of researchers in London has been able to put them together. Led by Dr. Mirko Kovac of the Imperial College of London’s Department of Aeronautics, the drone has an onboard 3D printer which is capable of molding foam into non-complex structures. The drone carries two separate chemicals which when mixed create the polyurethane foam.
Dubbed the “3D printing Micro Aerial Vehicle (MAV),” its essentially a quadcopter with chemical cartridges. The foam that it produces can have various applications. Its easier for the drone to fly into hard to reach areas and carry out repair work. Since the foam is extremely sticky multiple drones can work together to remove materials such as radioactive waste that is dangerous for humans to approach.
This drone is inspired by a bird called the swiftlet. The bird is capable of navigating often treacherous and dark environments just to find a place to build a nest. It uses saliva to built the nest which hardens after being put in place. Evidently the drone uses the exact same concept, relying upon chemicals to generate a similar sticky material.
Unlike conventional drones this can’t be controlled with a mobile app. A laptop needs to be in communication with the drone at all times to process information collected through its GPS and 16 infrared cameras, commands are then sent back to the drone through the laptop. The team is hopeful that in time the drone will be able to carry its own high-speed cameras and 3D depth sensors so that it can process information in real-time.