You’ve heard of printers. You’ve probably even got one or two in your house.
Then there are 3D printers. You’ve heard of them as well, haven’t you? That’s right: these are the bad boys that can print off stuff like guns and food and new legs. Ah, but you won’t have heard of a flying 3D printer before now, will you?
Designers from Imperial College in London are behind the plan to use autonomous flying drones (called hexacopters) to help protect us in the likes of a nuclear waste spillage.
The Sticky Foam is the Secret
So how would they even do that? Well, the idea is that they could fly into the disaster zone and print off loads of a type of sticky foam onto the hazardous material before attaching themselves to it and flying away with the whole thing. The quick setting foam is made of polyurethane and the drone is said to be almost entirely autonomous.
Another idea to come out of the project is that of making the hexacopters capable of printing off treetop nests which they would use to sit in and recharge before flying off again on another mission. One of the inspirations behind the machines is the swiftlet bird, which uses its own saliva to build nests.
Other uses for the flying 3D printer could include situations as that in which a gap in a bridge needs to be printed and inserted from the air in difficult terrains. The drones are set to get on display at the Imperial Festival in London.
Do you think these drones could work in real life?