Bio-inspired Construction with Mobile Robots and Compliant Pockets


Touraj Soleymani1, Vito Trianni2, Michael Bonani3, Francesco Mondada3, and Marco Dorigo1

1IRIDIA, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Bruxelles, Belgium,

2ISTC, National Research Council, Rome, Italy

3LSRO, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland,


The employment of autonomous robots in construction tasks—especially in remote and hazardous environments—is a strategic application domain, and innovative solutions must be tested for their potential to build solid and functional structures. In this paper, we develop an autonomous construction system in which self-contained ground robots build a protective barrier by means of compliant pockets. We present a stochastic control algorithm based on two biological mechanisms—stigmergy and templates—that takes advantage of compliant pockets for autonomous construction with single and multiple robots. The control algorithm guides the robot(s) to build the protective barrier without relying on a central planner, an external computer, or a motion capture system. We propose a statistical model to represent the structures built with the compliant pockets, and we provide a set of criteria for assessing the performance of the proposed system. To demonstrate the feasibility of the proposed system, real-robot and simulation experiments were carried out. The results show the viability of the proposed autonomous construction system.

The video of the real-robot experiment

The video of the simulation experiment


The research presented in this paper was carried out in the framework of H2SWARM, an European Science Foundation project partially funded by the Belgian F.R.S.-FNRS, the Italian CNR, and the Swiss NSF. The work was also partially supported by the ERC Advanced Grant "E-SWARM: Engineering Swarm Intelligence Systems" (grant 246939), and by the European Union project ASCENS (n. 257414). M. Dorigo acknowledges support from the Belgian F.R.S.-FNRS.