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Drones for good: Mud-spraying UAVs help quickly construct emergency shelters

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A French architect has showcased an experimental project in which drones spray layers of a mud mixture onto prefabricated frames, rapidly resulting in habitable structures suitable for emergency housing.

Stephanie Chaltiel worked alongside a team of student’s from London’s architecture association and the team built a prototype to display at London’s Design Festival which ran from the 15-23 of September.

How are these structures made?

The base structure of the house is a geodesic dome, a light framework arranged as a set of polygons. The design is reminiscent of an igloo and distributes weight evenly across the frame meaning that for their size, these structures are very strong and sturdy.

According to Curbed once the wooden frame is assembled, it is covered in small burlap sacks filled with sand which form the base on top of which the tethered drone’s sprays its clay mixture (you can see a video of this process below).

Each drone follows a programmed pattern to spray the wet mud on the frame and as mud quickly dries, it creates a hard shell and protective coating. The design was inspired by the wattle and daub technique of construction which has been in use for some 6,000 years. It combines a frame of woven strips of wood which are then covered in a mixture of earth, clay, sand as well as sometimes animal dung (hopefully not fresh) and straw.

The genius of this design comes through its simplicity. To get one of these structures built requires simple, low-cost materials (aside from the drone but the mixture could be applied by hand too) and minimal skill to assemble.

 

Credit: Stephanie Chaltiel

 

This style of housing is ideal for use in places like disaster zones or refugee camps. Once constructed, they are warm and resistant to the elements. This project will continue to test with different combinations of materials to test their cost and strength before hopefully being rolled out in some disaster areas where they are sorely needed.

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