A Swiss team is using autonomous drones to build towering brick structures.

The future of construction projects may not lie with human workers, but rather with swarms of autonomous builder robots able to build complex brick structures from a digital blueprint. In an exhibition by ETH Zurich roboticist Rafaello D’Andrea and architects Fabio Gramazio and Matthias Kohler, several robotic quadrocopters were able to successfully build a 20-foot-tall curving tower of polystyrene blocks at a museum in France.

The robots are able to fly autonomously, but they also get help from the environment: The ceiling of the room where the assembly is taking place was equipped with a motion-capture system. A computer uses the vision data to keep track of the quadcopters and tell them where to go. To avoid collisions, the robots reserve air space on one of two “freeways” before they fly.

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