Drones and Architecture in the battle against the coronavirus!

11.04.2020, Sat

Ar. Saul Ajuria has developed a project that deals with the design of new building typologies, in particular, he designed a logistics center to automate deliveries in urban environments using drones, which minimizes contact between people. In the current epidemiological context, this would facilitate the arrival of medicines, personal insulation material, food and basic products for isolated people; allowing to improve the quality of life of the population during quarantine, as the same time as minimizing the risk of coronavirus infection.

Photo Credit: Saúl Ajuria Fernández , Drone images by Matternet

(Text by Ar. Saúl Ajuria Fernández, as it is)

The COVID-19 pandemic has become a true humanitarian crisis with unimaginable social, economic and political outcomes. We are all trying to make our best to contribute, either from health centers, supermarkets or simply trying to make insulation bearable; but what can we as architects do in all this? And, how can we apply it to other problems in contemporary world?


In an attempt to reduce the transmission rate of the disease and thus protect the most susceptible individuals, governments and authorities around the world have ordered people to stay at home, in the safety and hygiene of the domestic environment, and that they avoid any unnecessary contact with other people, spaces and objects. And it is in this situation that automated systems make more sense, having as main advantages: guaranteeing the quality and hygiene levels of products, performing tasks that are not safe for people and being available 24 hours a day.


The “Urban Droneport” is a logistics center that automates deliveries in urban environments using drones, which minimizes contact between people. In the current epidemiological context, this would facilitate the arrival of medicines, personal insulation material, food and basic products for isolated people; allowing to improve the quality of life of the population during quarantine, as the same time as minimizing the risk of coronavirus infection. By giving these options to the population, we also reduce rides and walks to pharmacies, supermarkets or even the ones of delivery people. In addition, it could also be useful in the distribution of medical supplies to healthcare centers, given the shortage situations that we are dealing with.


The objective of the project is the design of a building that allows and optimizes the transport of goods with Remotely Controlled Aircrafts in urban areas. Emphasis is placed on both the design of the necessary architecture and the generation of a new network which adapts to the existing city and enables this new transport system. The project is innovative as long as it designs new distribution systems, new elements for receiving packages and, in general, a new infrastructure network that frees up existing ones and optimizes the movement of goods.


In a previous analysis, it was concluded that the increase in e-commerce, supported by current logistics systems would lead to the collapse of infrastructures. Taking into account that 80% of shipments weigh less than 2 kg and have a volume less than a shoe box, drones are proposed as a transport vehicle, which would allow achieving great benefits in time and cost of shipments. The project is reinforced by its potential utility in at actual times, in which we all benefit from limited interpersonal contact.


The modular design and prefabricated structure of the logistics center allows it to be adapted to each city and its needs. The project can be located anywhere in the city that is surrounded by potential users and connected to expressways, which will lead to: optimize its operation, maximize the number of people benefited by the service and speed up the connection with transit stations and trading ports. This can be seen in the generated images that show its inclusion in Madrid, Barcelona, London and New York.


The project is based on a process architecture, which optimizes the operation of the system and contributes to enhancing all aspects for the development of the new infrastructure. After an analysis of these processes, a spherical formalization is chosen for the building, which makes it possible to develop plants and circular sections, thus favoring both the distribution and management of packages and the flight of aircraft, avoiding the appearance of turbulence.


Focusing on the constructive and structural aspects of the building, the following principles apply: prefabrication, modularity and rationality. It seeks to minimize the elements and types of connections and opts for a metallic structure with dry joints that allows both its assembly and disassembly, as well as its expansion or modification. The building is modulated so that the details of its construction are resolved with only one of its twelve wedges.


The configuration of the drone´s hangars is based on industrial storage systems and is independent of the main structure, allowing the modification of the dimensions of these according to the needs. The design of a system for concentrating and expanding solar rays at the door of the hangars allows to obtain photovoltaic energy, thus covering a large part of the building's energy demand.


A new infrastructure network together with the Logistics Center, both adapted to the existing city are design to make the operation of this new transport system feasible. The network is based on three actions: first, the use of the city as a three-dimensional map that allows us to generate this new network physically detached from those that currently exist. Secondly, the installation of specific elements in buildings that integrate the existing city with the new network. Finally, the design of the delivery and collection boxes for packages that respond to two cases: in buildings accessible by façade, it is carried out by means of individual mailboxes located in the windows of the houses, and in buildings that are not accessible by façades, it is carried out by Community mailboxes, which can be located on the roof of the building itself or in a nearby public space.


In these moments in which we must remain isolated in our homes for the common good, it is important to highlight and consider how we should adapt to the future and its uncertainties, how architecture should change to face new scenarios, and how it should propose new ideas and solutions to the problems that will arise, in order to be an engine of development and innovation.


In conclusion and under te perspective of architecture, the current the crisis may be the starting point for a deep transformation. It will probably be necessary to completely reorder urban planning to adapt it to new functions and new forms of mobility. Likewise, the functional programs of the new buildings must be restructured to adapt the spaces to the new needs.


This is a great opportunity to define what architecture and this project in particular can contribute to improving people's quality of life.


Finally and from a personal point of view, this project is the way to contribute my grain of sand to improve the situation, just as my sister as a doctor is doing her best every day in a Madrid hospital or my parents are staying at home to contribute to the common good.



Photo Credit: Saúl Ajuria Fernández , 


Drone images by  Matternet

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