Drones to Create Concrete Structures


Over the course of Milan, Italy’s 2019 design week, MuDD Architects (Barcelona, Spain) debuted “Terramia”—a lightweight structure built out of locally sourced bamboo, tailor-made fabric, and local sands and clays that were sprayed from a drone.

The design was a collaboration between MuDD, Canya Viva Engineering and AKT II, while the drone-spraying technique was developed through RCTake-off, Euromair and researchers from the Catholic University of Louvain, France.

First Mud-Sprayed Shelters

Before MuDD Architects, Stephanie Chaltiel (now the company’s principal) demonstrated at London’s 2018 Design Festival how drones could coat a shelter in clay—a construction method that had the potential for future use in disaster zones and refugee camps.

In this instance, the shelter was created from wooden lattices and bags of hay, which were then sprayed with a mixture of clay and linen fibers or "bioshotcrete." The coating bound the structure together, making it weatherproof, durable and permanent. And, it was completed in only four days.

At the time, Chaltiel told Dezeen, “The drones are quite easy to bring to any site. When dismantled they fit into two [pieces of] luggage and the pump is on wheels so it can reach remote or difficult areas without the need for scaffolding or cranes.”

The drone for this project was custom made and engineered by the University of Leuven in Belgium.

Creating Terrmaia

Directly on site, a team of five erected various arches of bamboo, tying them together in order to create a skeleton of the structure. The skeleton was then covered with a large fabric with the help of the drone and a ground team to create a basic shell.

According to Fast Company, Chaltiel’s shell design was most inspired by architecture works of Félix Candela in Mexico. Though, Chaltiel’s experience building with native cultures in Mexico and French Guiana also helped her “discover and mature the potential of such techniques especially if paired with some automation.”

Once an ideal shape was achieved, a quadcopter drone then sprayed shotcrete—a method for adding cement—out of an attached hose. However, in this case the “cement” was made up of clay, sand and rice husks. In addition to the sprayed wet mixes, the drone also sprayed blow dry fibers for insulation.

The structure was complete in just five days.

The Bigger Picture

By using strictly raw materials, not only does the project hope to continue working toward an innovative and cost-effective way to create housing, but also to make easier the more labor-intensive aspects of earth architecture.

With the help of drone spraying, projects that would take weeks otherwise, can now be completed in just days. Other benefits of this construction practice are that the shotcrete (which Chaltiel hopes can one day be stabilized clay) can be used on all types of structures, from tall buildings and skyscrapers to smaller structures or freeform facades.

“The hope is that such projects and techniques bring back sustainability linked with earth architecture in dense city centers,” Chaltiel said.

While the current technique for drone spraying still requires manual assistance, in the future, Chaltiel hopes it can be flown remotely or run autonomously.


Tagged categories: Architecture; Asia Pacific; Building facades; Coating Application - Commercial; Coating Materials - Commercial; Coatings Technology; concrete; Concrete Surfacing; drone; Drones; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Latin America; North America; Research; Research and development; shotcrete; Technology; Z-Continents

Join the Conversation:

Sign in to our community to add your comments.