GRASP Lab’s ModQuad Robots on Discovery Canada’s Daily Planet

GRASP Lab’s ModQuad Robots on Discovery Canada’s Daily Planet

By Lida Tunesi

Imagine if you had construction materials that could move on their own. You could assemble a bridge to a nearby island without ever touching the water, or build a structure on top of a mountain without having to climb it.

Engineers in the GRASP Lab are working toward this vision. The team, based in Professor Mark Yim’s ModLab and featuring members David Saldaña, Bruno Gabrich and Guanrui Li, developed an algorithm that allows their modular, flying robots to meet and attach via small magnets, all while hovering in midair. Assembled pairs of robots can then come together to create even larger flying structures.

ModQuad was recently featured in this segment from Discovery Channel Canada’s Daily Planet.

With more robust robots, this could someday be useful for quickly building floating surfaces in water during a rescue situation, for instance, or for assembling bridges over flooded areas. One advantage of modular, flying pieces is that the structures are temporary; they can easily be put together and taken apart.

In their own lab-produced video, the ModQuad team notes that assembling the robots in midair is faster than doing so on land or in water. The robots can also navigate cluttered environments, which would serve them well in disaster areas.