Construction has long relied on machine services and tools to get the job done. From material lifts and beta max hoists that transport people and construction materials to the scaffolded sides of buildings to the invaluable shops that perform machine tool repairs, that fact isn’t about to change: it’s about to get upgraded.
It seems that wasps have finally become useful. They’re known for being able to carry objects far beyond their own weight, even being able to drag massive things that are too big to carry: it does this thanks to a structure on its feet called an arolium, a pad that helps them grip surfaces. Engineers want drones to do the same thing; currently, these “micro air vehicles” are only able to lift objects at or below their own weight, which extremely limits the applications they can be used in. However, scientists have recently developed a new class of robots — known as FlyCroTugs — that take a page from the wasp’s book.
On the surface, they look like regular old quadrotors that can fit in the palm of your hand. Their bellies, however, contain the secret weapon: one version uses hooks to snag bumps and pits to anchor itself to a surface, while another uses a pad to stick to a smooth surface. The machines then use an exceptionally small winch to lift and drag things up to 40 times their own weight!
The applications that these little guys possess are practically exponential, but their use in the construction industry — specifically to replace material lifts and hoists by being able to carry far more weight — is revolutionary. Human beings may not be entirely content hopping into a drone’s carriage and heading up a multi-story building quite yet, but that doesn’t mean it won’t become the norm in the near future.
As revolutionary as it is, this technological development isn’t going to disrupt the machine tooling industry: machine tools are inherently hard and durable, so routine maintenance will still be required to keep them in expertly working order. The introduction of these wasp-like drones will, on the contrary, allow more work to be done due to their efficient strength.