Roofing drone nails down shingles

Roofing drone nails down shingles
The roofing octocopter, equipped with a nail gun, is parked near the mock roof. By setting the wooden panel at different inclines, the researchers simulated roofs with different slopes. Credit: Matthew Romano, Michigan Robotics

An octocopter capable of attaching asphalt shingles to roofs with a nail gun has been demonstrated at the University of Michigan.

This aerial vehicle is autonomous, meaning that it positions the nail gun on a nailing point, places the nail and moves to the next point without needing a human at the controls.

"For me, the biggest excitement of this work is in recognizing that autonomous, useful, physical interaction and are possible with drones," said Ella Atkins, a professor of aerospace engineering and robotics.

She added that tasks best suited to robotization are said to be "dull, dirty and dangerous," presumably moving the human workforce on to cleaner, safer and more interesting jobs.

Already, drones spare humans some high-stakes fall risks by inspecting bridges, wind turbines and cell towers. The natural next step, according to Atkins, is to upgrade from surveillance alone to performing physical tasks.

The problem of nailing down a shingle breaks down into several smaller problems—among them telling the octocopter where the nails should go and triggering the nail gun. Atkins' team used a system of markers and stationary cameras to enable the octocopter to precisely locate itself in space. They used this system to tell the octocopter where the nails should go.

Credit: University of Michigan

To fire the nail gun, they first measured the force needed to compress the point of the nail gun, which must be done before a nail will deploy. Then, they wrote software that would enable the octocopter to apply that force.

The off-the-shelf version of this electric nail gun requires a trigger to be compressed as well, but the team turned that into a virtual switch. This activated when the octocopter was in position to place a nail.

For now, the drone is slow compared to human roofers.

"Initially, we tried using faster approach speeds to minimize nailing time," said Matthew Romano, a robotics Ph.D. student and first author on the paper submitted to the International Conference on Robotics and Automation. "However, for those attempts, the nail gun tip often bounced off the roof, which meant it either wouldn't trigger or it would trigger in the wrong place."

However, Atkins argues that it is already as fast as she and her spouse were when they put the first nails into the house they re-roofed as graduate students.

"A novice roofer—who's never climbed on a roof, who's never used a nail gun—they start out slow. That , the evolution from them being a complete novice to being successful, is something that we'll need to see in this system as well," she said.

In addition to speed, the team identified other improvements that would be needed for a practical system. First, it should be powered by tether rather than battery. Because both batteries and nail guns are heavy, the system can only run for a little more than ten minutes at a time. A tether would enable it to run indefinitely. And with an air line running alongside the power cable, the nail gun could be a more effective pneumatic model.

Also, a system of cameras and markers is more complicated than a roofing drone would actually need. Shingles are marked with a shiny adhesive strip, in addition to the color difference between the exposed surface and the portion that lies beneath the next layer of shingles.

"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," said Atkins.

A paper on this work, titled, "Nailed it: Autonomous roofing with a nailgun-equipped octocopter," is submitted to the International Conference on Robotics and Automation and is posted to the arXiv preprint server.


Explore further

How savvy are you about nail care safety?

More information: Matthew Romano, et al. Nailed It: Autonomous Roofing with a Nailgun-Equipped Octocopter arXiv:1909.08162v1 [cs.RO]: arxiv.org/abs/1909.08162#
Citation: Roofing drone nails down shingles (2019, September 23) retrieved 20 October 2019 from https://techxplore.com/news/2019-09-roofing-drone-shingles.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
2630 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Sep 23, 2019
Have you looked at two drones working in tandem? 1st one lays the shingles followed immediately by the 2nd with the nail gun. Less instructions per drone will result in quicker operation. Later, after a learning curve you'll be better able to incorporate both into one drone.

Sep 23, 2019
But what will all the illegals filling the American roofing industry do?

Sep 23, 2019
Interesting exercise in drone assisted automation but entirely impractical.
What about cutting shingles to fit for stagger, edges, around vents and other protrusions; making adjustments as things go out of line, breaking open and distribution of bundles step flashing interweave, etc. . I can go on and as there are so many other aspects to putting on a shingle roof and this exercise only addresses one. But keep working at it.

Someone who understands the job.

Sep 23, 2019
The video showed that they used a cordless brad nailer to nail a roof shingle which is of course ridiculous. These researchers have obviously never done a roof job before. The more practical use for a drone is to survey the damage done to a roof after a storm or for a home inspection and they are already doing that.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more