Building with Drones

Experimenting a new ‘flying’ construction technique for cable-beam and tensile structures.

In a first phase (late 2015), a drone capable to carry heavy loads was built, calibrated, tuned and tested. The drone components, which are listed in the video and include a ground station and a differential GPS, that were selected to improve the standard UAV positioning system precision in outdoor applications.

In parallel to this first research phase (Semester 2-2015), Coralie Ming, a former Master’s student of the MSD, developed a thesis entitled: “Building with drones: outdoor experiments on lightweight structures”. In her work, she used a commercial Dji Phantom 3 drone, to verify the vehicle precision and capabilities of being applied to the construction of simple cable-beam structures. A short video of Coralie’s findings can be watched at this link (coming soon).

The Bachelor of Environments students have also worked in Semester 1-2016 on finding design applications for drone construction. “Studio Air” focused on the capabilities of drone technologies through simulation where the students explored outcomes generated by algorithmic design using Grasshopper for Rhinoceros. A custom drone simulator was developed to mimic the capabilities of the drone in order to help design development. A variety of outcomes were generated including tensile structures, additive/subtractive, onsite deployment/unfolding and interactive techniques. The work of Zhou Yuxiang and Joy Gong can be seen in this short video (coming soon) .

The second research phase, currently in progress, focuses on developing software for autonomous flight and interface between drone and commercial CAD software (Rhinoceros).

The research project is expected to be completed by the end of 2016, and it will lead to publication of the outcomes on international journals, such as “Automation in Construction” and “Journal of Architectural Computing”.

Multi-vehicle cooperation is not being tested by this project for budget and time reasons.

This project was funded via the Brookfield Multiplex Research Program.

Project details

Major Sponsors

Brookfield Multiplex Research Awards program

Associated Research Centres

Melbourne School of Engineering – Department of Mechanical Engineering

Project Team

Dr Alberto Pugnale, Chief Investigator
Dr Stanislav Roudavski
Dr Denny Oetomo
Coralie Ming
Julian Rutten
Eamon Taaffe


Alberto Pugnale