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DroneHub project to define standards for interaction between drones and infrastructure

Imagine a swarm of drones flying over the city, focused on detecting problems in the infrastructure before and autonomously performing repairs. It sounds like science fiction, but the researchers intend to explore whether this can be implemented as part of the experimental DroneHub project.

DroneHub is supposed to be located in the existing NEST research and innovation building on the Empa campus in Dubendorf, Switzerland. The project is led by Mirko Kovacs, Head of the Empa Sustainable Robotics Laboratory and Director of the Aerobotonics Laboratory at Imperial College London.

As part of the project, a kind of aviary for drones will be installed on top of the existing building. It will be a cage of pipes and metal mesh with a height of 11 m and an area of 90 sq. m, on which an experimental facade with replaceable surfaces and materials will be placed. Aerial Additive Manufacturing drones, which work like a 3D printer and squeeze a cement-like mixture out of the nozzle, will be tested in practice and used to diagnose and fix problems in the facade.

In addition, DroneHub will conduct research on how drones can help in monitoring climate change in forest-like conditions. A small natural area with trees and greenery will be created here to support new robotic sensing technologies, and researchers will also develop biodegradable drones.

Finally, the researchers intend to use DroneHub to create new guidelines and safety standards for using drones near people.

"If we imagine a future in which drones are naturally integrated into everyday urban life, and robots and humans coexist, then we need rules and technological standards for this," Kovac explained. - This starts, for example, from landing pads on or near buildings, which drones must approach autonomously, or from charging stations where transport drones independently replenish energy reserves for the next flight. At DroneHub, researchers will develop and establish technical guidelines for such interfaces between buildings and flying robots - and help ensure that the coexistence of man and machine does not remain science fiction."

Currently, DroneHub is only at the planning stage, and there is no information yet about when it will be implemented. But Kovac's team plans to present some of its unmanned technologies at the Venice Architecture Biennale, which runs until November 26 this year.

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