Drones are already being used in the construction industry, mostly for land surveys and to analyze structures. They’re a great way for a single operator to scan large areas quickly. But, we haven’t ever seen drones used in the actual construction process. Now, French architect Stéphanie Chaltiel is using drones to help build earthen domiciles.
Chaltiel began her career in French Guyana and Mexico where she focused on creating new sustainable housing construction methods. Her goal was to use the materials available locally to build homes that can be fabricated without any expensive machinery or tools. Earthen structures fit the bill because they use simple, abundant materials and can be constructed by hand. But, a large part of that construction involves the labor-intensive process of layering on natural materials for insulation, which is where the drone comes in.
Each of Chaltiel’s structures start as a skeletal framework, usually made from cheap materials like wood. Strong structures like geodesic domes work best. Those are then layered with insulating materials such as sand bags. Finally, a drone is used to spray on a viscous coating that will solidify and form a barrier to protect the structure from wind and rain. The drone carries a nozzle and hose that the coating is pumped through, like a hybrid of a concrete pump and paint sprayer. The drone makes it easy to reach the entire structure quickly, and without a lot of labor, which means more homes are built in a shorter amount of time.