Drones have been used for several interesting applications, including package deliveries, building rope bridges, and even used to build low-cost houses. Engineers from the University of Michigan have designed a new drone for another great application, roofing houses, which it can accomplish autonomously without a human pilot. Over the last few years, construction companies have utilized drones for some job site tasks, such as surveying, 3D modeling of buildings, and site inspections.
The team has developed a construction drone that goes one step further by being a roofer. More accurately, it’s an autonomous roofing flyer capable of laying down shingles using a nail gun. It accomplishes this by placing the gun on a positioning point on the shingle, driving a nail, and then moves on to the next.
The drone was designed around a DJI Spreading Wings S1000 octocopter outfitted with a modified Ryobi 18-Volt ONE+ Lithium-Ion Cordless AirStrike 18-Gauge Brad Nailer, which uses a limit switch and trigger powered by a 10,000mAh LiPo battery rather than using compressed air. A series of external cameras and onboard sensors help the drone find the target on the shingles, which uses in-flight data processed by a BeagleBone Blue running ArduPilot software.
Typically, a nail gun requires pressure (or trigger pull) to fire a nail into the shingles, which is easy for human hands, but not so much for a drone. To overcome this obstacle, the engineers wrote an algorithm that allows the drone to apply the required force. Construction workers shouldn’t worry about losing their roofing jobs to a drone quite yet, as the platform is only a proof-of-concept that’s incapable of replacing humans and can only operate for 10 minutes at a time.
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Author: Cabe Atwell