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Mud-spraying drones could be used to build homes in disasters areas

Terramia Drone Spray Housing Milan design week 2019

Stick a hose on a drone and anything can happen. In the example above, the flying machine pretty much sprayed a home into existence, and in doing so showcased its potential for disaster areas in need of emergency shelters.

The demonstration took place at a recent design show in Milan, Italy. When developing the idea, Spanish firm MuDD Architects found it could use the drone in a number of different ways when building the shelter.

The process begins with a team using bamboo to create a robust frame. Next, the drone lifts a fabric cover up and over the frame, with the team on the ground helping to haul it into its final position. To give the shelter a more solid construction, a mixture of clay, sand, and rice husks is then sprayed onto the cover using a hose attached to a drone, in the same way that you might apply shotcrete.

Once enough of the mixture has been applied, the drone switches roles again to become a drying machine, blowing air through the hose to create a more stable structure though one that also offers flexibility — important in locations experiencing strong winds or suffering after-shocks following a major earthquake.

The system was developed in partnership with drone firm RCTake-off and spraying specialist Euromair, according to Fast Company. At the moment a pilot controls the hose-equipped quadcopter, though MuDD is looking into the idea of flying it remotely, or adding advanced software and sensors so that it can perform its house-building tasks autonomously.

Helping in disaster zones

Using a drone for multiple roles can help to keep a disaster relief team to a minimum, which in turn helps to keep costs down. It would also reduce the amount of equipment needed to be transported to what may be an area with challenging terrain, depending on the general topography of the location and the type of disaster that’s occurred there. Materials for the shelter would, if possible, be sourced locally, further relieving pressure on long-distance transportation efforts. The system is still under development, but it’s hoped that future iterations will have the potential to assist humanitarian efforts globally.

It’s not the first time we’ve seen a drone buzzing about with a hose attached. Latvia-based drone company Aerones is already testing various setups for cleaning wind turbines and windows on large towers. The company claims its purpose-built 12-rotor drone, which features not only hoses but also sponges, can operate 20 times faster than traditional human-powered methods, and offers a greater level of safety, too. It’s also developing a similar system that has the potential to assist firefighters tackling blazes in elevated locations.

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Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
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