Small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly called drones, are gaining in popularity not only among the general public and consumers, but also among professionals working in the AEC industry. We’ve seen ambitious predictions for the use of drones on construction sites, as transportation vehicles and marketing tools.
While this new technology, like 3D printing and robotic fabrication in general, promises to revolutionize the architectural profession, it is useful to know to what extent its practical application can affect the way archipreneurs work. It seems that, for now, drones have great potentials when it comes to several aspects of the profession.
Researchers and firms are already experimenting with building with drones. In 2012, Swiss architecture firm Gramazio Kohler Architects and roboticist Raffaello D’Andrea teamed up with ETH Zürich to program a fleet of drones to lift and stack thousands of polystyrene bricks at the FRAC Centre in Orléans, France. Similarly, researcher Federico Augugliaro and contributors at the Institute for Dynamic Systems and Control and Gramazio Kohler Research had two quadrocopters construct a rope bridge strong enough to carry the weight of a human.
These may be impressive feats that will advance the technology, but they still offer little information on the way drones can currently be used in practice. It could be a while before we see programmed drones build entire habitable buildings, but they can already contribute a great deal in surveying building sites, collecting useful data and creating amazing visuals for marketing purposes.