Removing the need for scaffolds: tool-equipped drones

May 30, 2016 // By Julien Happich
French startup Aerial Coboticus aims to fly industrial-grade robotic tools affixed to a king-sized remotely controlled drone. Created in May 2015, the startup has patented the concept and is in early stages of R&D, hoping to deliver its first operational demonstrator by 2018.

Exhibiting a conceptual mock-up at this year's Innorobo fair, co-founder Asma Bouaouaja described a 4m-span quadcopter, tethered to a long power cord for unlimited flight, capable to embark up to 14kg of tooling equipment.

"This is a very large drone", emphasized Bouaouaja, "it will weigh around 90kg, yet we'll be able to achieve sub-centimetre precision at the tip of the robot arm it will carry", she told EETimes Europe at the exhibition.

With this level of precision, Bouaouaja is confident the tool-wielding flying platform will be able to carry out complex tasks in difficult-to-access places, at a fraction of the cost of installing scaffolds. This could be welding, laser surface cleaning or any other routine repair or maintenance work for which costly and obtrusive scaffolds are typically required today. Instead, only temporary safety markings may be required at ground level for the duration of the remote operation.

Engineers could operate at a safe distance, controlling the robot arm via video feed and haptic force feedback while the drone itself would hover in quasi autonomous mode.