The Spanish architecture firm MuDD has used drones that spray a cement-like substance onto fabric to construct lightweight structures.

The method eliminates the need for expensive construction equipment and could be used, not only to create temporary shelters in humanitarian disaster areas, but also large structures in modern cities in the future, the designers say.MuDD presented prototypes during Milan’s design week in April. The Milan Terramia prototypes are made of a bamboo structure wrapped in fabric.

A quadcopter drone then sprays shotcrete, a method for adding cement, out of a long hose. Shotcrete typically requires a crane or human operators to be applied effectively.But the larger idea is to automate the more labor-intensive aspects of earth architecture, the process of building with natural materials. Earth architecture is generally gentler on the environment than conventional architecture.

“Building with local materials such as bamboos, clay, sands, and rice husks offers a high sustainability factor,” MuDD’s principal Stephanie Chaltiel writes over email. But it can require extensive manual labor and, as a result, it’s time-consuming and expensive compared with other construction methods. Drone spraying speeds up the process: It took them five days to build the prototypes. It might’ve taken weeks otherwise.

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