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New grasping drone aims to do the heavy lifting

We’ve been talking about the use of drones in construction for a while now – it’s not exactly new technology anymore.

Construction companies have been early adopters of the technology in commercial terms, using them primarily for surveying, mapping and photography and filming of sites (our analysis of drones in construction from 2015 is a good place to start). But could they do more?

Well, one Japanese drone manufacturer, Prodrone, thinks so, recently unveiling the catchy-titled PD6B-AW-ARM – “a large-format drone equipped with two internally developed robotic arms, enabling it to directly accomplish a variety of tasks”.

That means the drone is capable of performing a variety of hands-on operations, some of which it isn’t hard to imagine could prove very handy on complex construction and demolition projects.

Examples include the ability to grasp and carry different-shaped cargoes, attaching or joining things, cutting cables, flicking switches, or receiving hazardous materials.

Some other vital statistics:

  • The robot arms can carry a payload of 10 kg each;
  • It lasts for 30 minutes on one charge;
  • Its maximum speed is 60 km/h (37 mph);
  • It weighs 20 kg;
  • And it can fly to a maximum altitude of 5,000 m.

Now, the rules and regulations around the use of drones in the UK are still quite strict, with pilots of commercially flown drones requiring a Civil Aviation Authority permit.

In particular, the rules also state that pilots have to maintain line of sight with the drone, which would make flying it inside a building to do something dangerous to humans a bit more tricky.

The long-term potential is there, though. Robotics are already being used extensively in offsite manufacturing facilities, but I have had conversations with people who work in the technology sector who think that, eventually, we could see robots on sites with traditional human labour there to support them.

It’s obviously all a long way off – but technologies like this grasping drone are glimpses of what might one day come to pass.

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