Dealing with the nuclear waste has always been highly tricky and dangerous. For such materials are fairly deadly for all living beings, one way how to reduce the risk could be using robots for manipulating them. This might sounds like a science fiction, but it actually can be done even nowadays. In this post I´d like to present you pretty interesting project, led by Dr Mirko Kovac at Imperial College London. The project includes UAV co-operating duo, a flying 3D printer and a transporting drone. The first one is a quadcopter equipped with 16 infrared cameras. This UAS is used to dispense polyurethane foam through a nozzle. Printing the sticky foam onto the target (which can be a container with toxic materials) allows the second drone to carry the picked object. Regarding the transport, the project team is using a hexacopter with heavy load capability.
I wonder if the Aerial Robotics Laboratory team will be able to achieve their goal, which is developement of fully autonomous UAS for removing the toxic waste or another materials. This copters should be able to detect targets and do the printing and carrying without any operator help. Moreover, this system is supposed to be the first step towards a robotic nest concept, something like a platform made by robots, which allows them to extend their action radius and use it as a home base. This plaform could be used then also for recharging the drone batteries, which might be very useful, especially in highly inaccesible or hazardous environments. This is obviously a strong inspiration by the animal behaviour, the Aerial Robotics Laboratory team is considering not only the “nesting”, but also UAV co-operating in swarms, using their inteligence and abilities.
Also, with a wee bit of imagination we can picture a great potential of the presented UAS concept in the close future. Imagine swarms of 3D printing and scanning drones repairing damaged building structures autonomously and effectively. In my opinion, copters which are able to detect and remove some object can´t be use only for transporting toxic substances, but e. g. for cleaning the streets in big cities, taking out the garbage and much more. I also find the combination of UAV and 3D printing pretty exciting, for these are promising technologies and their abilities are really impressive while using them together. As Dr Kovac said, biological life seems to be the key to build an innovative technology, if you are able to implement its principles into the best robotic engineering. Can´t argue with that.
I´m personally very looking forward to some further achievements of this project.