April 21, 2024
Autonomous Robots Capable of Constructing Structures Using Lattice Blocks

Autonomous Robots Capable of Constructing Structures Using Lattice Blocks

Robotic engineers from NASA Ames Research Center and KBR have collaborated to develop a groundbreaking robot system that has the ability to autonomously construct structures using specially designed lattice blocks. The team published their findings in Science Robotics, outlining the details of the robots and lattice blocks utilized in the construction process.

As space exploration organizations, including NASA, contemplate the prospect of sending humans to the moon and other celestial bodies, the importance of establishing suitable living quarters for astronauts becomes apparent. Implementing the use of robots to build these structures becomes critical. In this study, the team successfully created a robotic system that can independently construct desired structures.

The system comprises three main robots: two transport robots and one connecting robot. The lattice blocks used in the construction are hollow, with edges resembling those found on a coat hanger. Both transport robots are able to pick up the blocks from a specific location and transport them to the construction site. Additionally, the transport robots can transfer blocks to one another, expanding their capabilities beyond simple transportation.

The third robot remains inside the structure and connects the blocks brought by the transport robots. These blocks are connected using twist connectors similar to those found in assemble-it-yourself furniture, such as Ikea products. By working collaboratively, the three robots are able to construct structures that have been pre-designed by the researchers, or potentially in the future, by astronauts themselves.

Preliminary testing of the system has already been conducted, wherein several structures were successfully built. One notable example includes the construction of a shelter using 256 lattice blocks. The entire process took a continuous 4.2 days to complete. The researchers propose that a similar system could be sent to other celestial bodies to construct various structures, towers, or other facilities before astronauts arrive. In its current design, astronauts would need to manually apply a covering to the outer blocks, but automation of this process is highly feasible.

This groundbreaking development in autonomous construction opens up new possibilities for future space exploration and colonization. The ability to send robots ahead of astronauts to prepare living and working spaces greatly reduces human risk while maximizing efficiency. With further advancements, autonomous robots may soon take center stage in establishing a sustainable presence on other planets.

1.      Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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