Drones

Autonomous roofing drone nails down asphalt shingles

Autonomous roofing drone nails...
Where a human roofer would need to pull the trigger on the electric nail gun, the team programmed a virtual switch so that the drone itself does so when in the correct position
Where a human roofer would need to pull the trigger on the electric nail gun, the team programmed a virtual switch so that the drone itself does so when in the correct position
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Scientists at the University of Michiganhave demonstrated an octocopter equipped with a nail gun and a knack for fixing asphalt shingles to a mock rooftop
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Scientists at the University of Michiganhave demonstrated an octocopter equipped with a nail gun and a knack for fixing asphalt shingles to a mock rooftop
Where a human roofer would need to pull the trigger on the electric nail gun, the team programmed a virtual switch so that the drone itself does so when in the correct position
2/3
Where a human roofer would need to pull the trigger on the electric nail gun, the team programmed a virtual switch so that the drone itself does so when in the correct position
To turn the drone from one that simply carries a nail gun to one that uses it to secure roof shingles, the UM team set up a system of cameras and markers to help it find its way
3/3
To turn the drone from one that simply carries a nail gun to one that uses it to secure roof shingles, the UM team set up a system of cameras and markers to help it find its way

Between drones that assemble rope bridges and others that build low-cost houses out of mud, imaginative research projects continue to show us how the autonomous aircraft can have a role to play in the world of construction. Scientists at the University of Michigan (UM) have put forward another possibility, showing off an octocopter equipped with a nail gun and a knack for fixing asphalt shingles to a mock rooftop.

The engineering team started with an off-the-shelf nail gun and a DJI S1000 Octocopter, which also happens to be the model we saw turned into a flying flamethrower earlier in the year.

To turn the drone from one that simply carries a nail gun to one that uses it to secure roof shingles, the team set up a system of cameras and markers, which enable the aircraft to both know exactly where it is in the environment, and determine where the nails should go.

Where a human roofer would need to pull the trigger on the electric nail gun, the team programmed a virtual switch so that the drone itself does so when in the correct position. They then performed a number of demonstrations, using the drone to nail shingles to a wooden panel at different angles to mimic roofs with different slopes.

Scientists at the University of Michiganhave demonstrated an octocopter equipped with a nail gun and a knack for fixing asphalt shingles to a mock rooftop
Scientists at the University of Michiganhave demonstrated an octocopter equipped with a nail gun and a knack for fixing asphalt shingles to a mock rooftop

While an impressive feat, the team notes that the proof-of-concept system is currently inferior to a human deployed to do the same job, but they see a few ways they could bring it up to speed. It can only operate for 10 minutes at a time, but by adding a power cable alongside an airline, they could both allow it to run indefinitely and add more firepower by way of a pneumatic nail gun.

They also say that the system of cameras and markers would be overkill for a practical version of the technology. With a shiny adhesive strip and different coloring of the shingles to the material below it, the team says there are enough visual queues for a drone to find its own way.

“It would be pretty easy to have a camera system mounted on the octocopter that understands both the orientation of the shingle and its position,” says Ella Atkins, a professor of aerospace engineering and robotics.

The paper describing the team’s research can be accessed online here (PDF), while you can see the drone in action in the video below.

A drone with a nail gun for autonomous roofing

Source: University of Michigan

10 comments
Bonnie Smith
That has to be the slowest roofer in history. Must be a union worker.
BrianK56
To be able to fire 3 roofing nails in one shot would give the drone an advantage over humans.
paul314
On the one hand, great! On the other hand, roofing is one of the last few job categories where marginally-skilled people with questionable histories can get a foothold in the job market. I guess we should just welcome our flying robot overlords and hope they use their nailguns responsibly.
Pc Carraway
-Sunny weather only -Can't handle wind -Can't hold much weight -Can't install boots -Batteries last 20 minutes -Can't install drip edge -Can't tar to weatherproof areas -Can't get under gables -Won't handle hips and valleys (weaving or cutting) -Might be able to cut roof/shingle edges.
Andrew Chow
Pretty useless if the drone can't also install the shingles.
Dan Lewis
Sorry. No. Give it around 5 years more development and maybe then it will be viable. As it is, it's silly, childish.
Douglas Rogers
I envisioned a guy like C3PO with a hammer, complaining bitterly that he was made to serve tea!
Ruby Reed
Ok, even if the drone could nail the shingle in quickly whose going to keep the shingle from sliding off before it’s nailed? Will it place the shingle, cut it and fit them in with the flashing? They’ve been messing around robot installers for decades. As a builder I’m not sure anything but a drone picking up and setting a finished shell over a structure will ever replace a human. Roofing is skilled work as I would never have a marginally skilled roof work on one of my jobs without my supervision.
Trylon
Wastes time and electricity flying back and forth. It would be better to have a wheeled robot that moves horizontally to do one row at a time then up to the next row, with conveyor feed belts from the ground to continuously supply shingles and nails. Such a device would be able to far outpace any human roofer.
roddy6667
Roofing is one of the most dangerous jobs in America. This is one area where machines would be welcome, just as they were in the welding and spray painting operations in auto manufacturing.