Daniel Mellinger and his team from the GRASP Lab at the University of Pennsylvania have developed a system that allows flying robots to construct just about any structure. A human only needs to decide on the design before an algorithm takes over to determine where parts should be placed to create it. Tiny helicopters then follow these instructions and coordinate with each other by choosing the next part placement in a list.
The team also developed a gripper that can easily pick up parts lying horizontally or upright. Once a piece is in position, magnets snap it in place. The only limits to what these helicopters can build are the number of parts available and their battery power.
Earlier this year, the researchers had these robots perform acrobatic feats, like doing triple flips in the air and flying through windows at various angles. In the future, they hope to incorporate charging stations so that the robots can build for longer. They may also get them to collaborate with ground robots.