Drones Will Become the Architects of Our World

They know how to weave a bridge.

Would you cross a bridge if you knew it had been built by drones? Researchers at the ETH Zurich Flying Machine Arena have succeeded in programming a group of drones to autonomously assemble a rope bridge strong enough for three humans to cross without incident.

The purpose of this project is to show for “first time that small flying machines are capable of autonomously realizing load-bearing structures at full scale and proceeding a step further towards real-world scenarios.”

The project wasn't without issue; researchers had to deal with the drone's limited payload capacity. So they settled on using a rope material known as Dyneema, which has a low weight-to-strength ratio. Motorized spools were attached to the bottom of the drones, allowing them to control for tension when wrapping and weaving the structure.

One piece of the bridge was constructed by humans: the two steel scaffolds. These structures provided an anchor for the drones to work off of from an algorithmic standpoint. Before the drones began weaving the bridge, the researchers had to input environmental anchor points into the system. From there, the drones were able to take over without human intervention and construct a rope bridge. 

Would you cross a bridge if you knew it had been built by drones?

The end result was a structure “[s]panning 7.4 m between two scaffolding structures; the bridge consists of nine rope segments for a total rope length of about 120 m and is composed of different elements, such as knots, links, and braid.”

It's both an exciting and frightening time for drone advancements. There's no doubt that the future will be filled with drones. It's just a question of whether we'll hear more stories about how they will improve delivery of our packages, advance whale research, and bring Internet to the third world; or if they'll be more about conflicts over invasion of privacy and strikes against enemy states. 


Natalie has been writing professionally for about 6 years. After graduating from Ithaca College with a degree in Feature Writing, she snagged a job at PCMag.com where she had the opportunity to review all the latest consumer gadgets. Since then she has become a writer for hire, freelancing for various websites. In her spare time, you may find her riding her motorcycle, reading YA novels, hiking, or playing video games. Follow her on Twitter: @nat_schumaker

Photo Credit: ETH Zurich

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Can the keto diet help treat depression? Here’s what the science says so far

A growing body of research shows promising signs that the keto diet might be able to improve mental health.

Public Domain
Mind & Brain
  • The keto diet is known to be an effective tool for weight loss, however its effects on mental health remain largely unclear.
  • Recent studies suggests that the keto diet might be an effective tool for treating depression, and clearing up so-called "brain fog," though scientists caution more research is necessary before it can be recommended as a treatment.
  • Any experiments with the keto diet are best done in conjunction with a doctor, considering some people face problems when transitioning to the low-carb diet.
Keep reading Show less

Steven Pinker's 13 rules for writing better

The Harvard psychologist loves reading authors' rules for writing. Here are his own.

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 21: Steven Pinker speaks onstage during OZY Fest 2018 at Rumsey Playfield, Central Park on July 21, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for Ozy Media)
Personal Growth
  • Steven Pinker is many things: linguist, psychologist, optimist, Harvard professor, and author.
  • When it comes to writing, he's a student and a teacher.
  • Here's are his 13 rules for writing better, more simply, and more clearly.
Keep reading Show less

Want to age gracefully? A new study says live meaningfully

Thinking your life is worthwhile is correlated with a variety of positive outcomes.

Surprising Science
  • A new study finds that adults who feel their lives are meaningful have better health and life outcomes.
  • Adults who felt their lives were worthwhile tended to be more social and had healthier habits.
  • The findings could be used to help improve the health of older adults.
Keep reading Show less