It hasn’t taken long for the most impressive tech of 2014 get even stranger but we can’t be happier about it. A team at the Imperial College London have created a flying drone that can 3D print. It’s called the 3D printing Micro Arial Vehicle, or MAV for short.
MAV is a quad-copter that carries with it two chemicals that, when mixed, create polyurethane foam. Granted, it’s not the most sophisticated form of 3D printing, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.
The foam created can be used to create simple structures or be used to repair components in locations that might be a bit difficult for a human repairman to access.
Polyurethane foam is also extremely sticky, an attribute that might allow the removal of dangerous objects from a given location. Drone could coat the object (for example, a bomb) with foam and another larger drone could be used to lift it away from the area by sticking to the object in question without endangering any humans.
At the moment the drone can only fly in controlled environments, but plans are afoot to fit them with high-speed cameras, sensors and solar panels, which will increase autonomy and the amount of time the drones can remain in flight and which will hopefully get them out of the lab. That solar panel item in particular is important, as current commercial drones have very poor battery life and if these guys are going to see semi-industrial use, they’re going to need a power boost.
Check out the video to see them in action.