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Continuing from my previous questions about a swarm of millimetre-sized drones, I want them to be able to interlock or by some method form into strong functioning structures, like a gun or a baseball bat, then disassemble back into a swarm or another structure.

I had thought they could interlock, and once in place, turn on electromagnets for extra strength, although this may not work well for something with moving parts, and they may still smash to bits on impact.

Another option is drones bringing parts to be fitted in the air, this would mean the weapon or tool is stronger but carrying large pieces like a gun's barrel would take away from the swarm effect.

Is there a way that drones could quickly form strong bonds, almost as strong or as strong as a sheet of metal, and still be able to disassemble back into drone form?

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  • $\begingroup$ Are you using super strong nano materials, or limited to traditional metals and plastics to build this structure? $\endgroup$ – Alexander Jan 29 at 20:12
  • $\begingroup$ @Alexander Yes, nano materials can be used. I was initially only thinking about metal and plastic but that is an option also. $\endgroup$ – RandySavage Jan 29 at 20:16
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With nano materials you should be good. Millimeter-sized drones would hover maintaining centimeter-sized gaps. When it's time to assemble, they would deploy "tentacles" which should connect to each other, forming a strong lattice. Nano materials can, in theory, provide sufficient strength and rigidity for this lattice.

This lattice, though, would be just a structural object - you can have a baseball bat (with a number of holes), but not a functioning gun.

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  • $\begingroup$ how would you imagine the nano tentacles join? I have seen images of utility fog with pincers that lock or grab but that seems like a weak join, I may be wrong. $\endgroup$ – RandySavage Jan 29 at 21:36
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    $\begingroup$ @JRams it can be miniature bayonets or any type of socket connectors. It does not require a great strength to keep something that's already plugged in. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Jan 29 at 21:50
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There is a concept for Mars or other planet colonization that entails a pre-landing of robotic swarms... each unit has singular operations it can perform. More complex functions are done by combining 2 or more of the units together to do those more advanced functions. Replacement and new units can be produced with a 3-D style factory that uses prestaged materials or new materials extracted from the target planet. The goal of the hoard is slow but steady development of habitat, tunnels, or other environment that is ready when humans land at a later date.

Nothing says these can't be smaller units. Being smaller, you can get thousands of them on a single landing ship. Being smaller, their ability to combine into a larger functioning units would be important for larger/heavier tasks.

The design of connectors for these drones can vary based on the level of work the combined unit may be attempting to achieve. Magnets would align units in a simple fashion. Likewise, inverted magnets could keep parts separated for specific types of work... having a joint system capable of doing both across the collective would create different options for those units.

Mechanical joiners can be designed in just about any configuration you can imagine. These would be engineered to provide maximum strength for the heaviest or most stressful function those units would be expected to perform. Joints to create a wagon or platform for hauling would need less strength than units combining to make a crane arm for lifting and moving objects.

A combination of magnetics and mechanical configurations would offer the most versatile set of drones. Really it would depend on what your drone swarm needed to do as to how it was engineered.

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  • $\begingroup$ This question asks how drones could form bonds, but this answer only details a potential use of drones. It doesn't seem to answer the OP's question - can you edit the post to specify how the drones you describe would link together? $\endgroup$ – Zxyrra Jan 30 at 4:35

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