The Thread

The thesis proposal explored a design and fabrication system produced and constantly informed by a swarm of semi-autonomous airborne units, using relevant materials. In other words, the research focused on building tensile structures with programmed quadcopters. The proposed design system investigated a swarm of quadcopters braiding and bifurcating between different clusters of quadcopters to achieve an integral structure, where pulled in one area would alter the entire system. The swarm behavior was explored by algorithms, which enable a weaving character and emergence in the design. The flight control aimed to prove the opportunities of building and designing in real time with quadcopters. As such, an installation was created employing three AR parrot drones. The research was approach from three sections: material research, flight control, choreography that constantly informed one another to create a real scale prototype.

Collaboration: Maria Garcia-Mozota, Karthikeyan Arunachalam, Melhem Sfeir

The Thread: Flight Control

The aim was for the quadcopters to receive programmed instructions of where to go, braid with other quadcopters without collision, and have a stable flight. These goals were broken into tasks, such as: hovering, tracking, positioning, and semi-autonomous flying.

FlightControl FlightControl

The Thread: Choreography

The choreography research continued exploring system that could nullify the effects of sliding. The braiding system provided a solution to the problems of sliding, and a diverse section hierarchy, and it allowed for an integrated system because of the constant bifurcations that allows the entire system to be posttensioned, since all the threads are connected.

The braiding system consists of a series of steps. First the quadcopter scan the closest anchoring points, where they attached the one end of the thread. As they move towards their next target they cluster with other quadcopters that match he conditions of being the same type and in close proximity. As they get together without colliding with one another, the form a cluster. Within this cluster, the agents have a rotational force towards one another that allows them to braid while heading to their target. They have specific responses as to how to interact with other cluster when they are in close proximity, this responses are a diverse series of exchanges between the agents in different cluster, allowing for the output to be a series of interconnected braids.

This series of braids are left in catenary since the quadcopters do not have the strength to pull and post-tension the output. For this reason, the system relies on anchoring mechanism where the quadcopters just leave the thread, and this system is in charge of post-tensioning the catenary skeleton. One the initial pass is in tension, another generation of quacopter can enter the existing skeleton and keep working on it. The next strategy consists of pulling the existing structure to start opening the spaces. And finally, a smaller version of these quadcopters would go in and start weaving the final enclosure.

The Thread: Installation

The installation was done with three AR parrot drones. The quadcopters started braiding together, and then the three of them split and anchored in three different spots. This same process was repeated until a planar surface was built. Later on, this surface was pulled at its intersection and to start opening up to create a three-dimensional space.


Construction Process

Installation Installation