New Atlas reports that a string of interesting research projects have shown us how drones might one day be used to not just construct elements of our environment, but keep things just the way we like them. A new system from the University of Stuttgart explores how these flying robots can give rise to a novel form of intelligent architecture, demonstrated through an adaptive canopy that changes its configuration as the sun moves through the sky.

The unique capabilities of drones could have a lot to offer the world of construction, starting with the job of maintenance. They are already putting their airborne cameras and sensors to work inspecting bridges and pipelines, while scientists at the University of Leeds are investigating how they can monitor urban centers for potholes and degrading power lines, with the ultimate objective of ushering in “self-repairing cities.”

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Over at Switzerland’s ETH Zürich Institute for Dynamic Systems and Control, meanwhile, researchers are making great headway in using drones to construct things from the ground up. Way back in 2011 they showed off a six-meter (20 ft) tall tower made from 1,500 polystyrene bricks, every one of which had been plonked into place by an autonomous drone.

The advantages of the aircraft in the world of construction stem from the fact that they can reach any point in space, unlike a crane. This has enabled them to weave unique tensile structures, such as walkable rope bridges, guided only by flight algorithms. Continue reading about this shapeshifting technology.

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