Let Drones Do The Leg Work: Warehouse Inventory Management

Drones or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are everywhere, above our heads at sporting events, in toy stores and possibly even making it to a warehouse near you. Recently the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) set guidelines on commercial drones to allow for regulated commercial use of these advanced flying machines. There are still some strict guidelines that need to be followed but it’s a huge step forward for this technology and possibly the world.

We’ll be taking a look at how drones may revolutionize inventory management in the over 800,000 sprawling warehouses based in the United States alone. Inventory management in a large warehouse is a serious time consumer. As of now inventory management is done manually, requiring an individual to be hoisted up in order to scan each label. These individuals need to be driven around on a lift, brought up to the package and scan the inventory, one by one. But there may be a more streamlined, accurate and cost efficient way to get this time consuming process out of the way.

Drones can be used for a variety of applications, from military to civilian business and innovators are realizing the potential this technology has to offer. It seems as though each day a new way to utilize drones for business makes its way to mainstream media and the world is waiting for the day where drones outnumber birds in the sky. These days may be some time off in the future, as the technology is still in its infancy. However, this hasn’t stopped companies from developing new innovative software and manufacturing the latest technology for piloted and unmanned areal vehicles.

Still, there have been some major breakthroughs in regard to utilizing drones for inventory management. The company Intelligent Flying Machines or IFM, has recently showcased their version of the Inventory Management Drone and made some pretty impressive promises to the public. They stated that a small army of autonomous drones, which are accurate to the centimeter, can fly around a warehouse in-between shifts and scan all of the warehouses inventory. On average it would take these drones around 20 minutes to complete a job that may take a person days.

Common consumer drones would not be able to handle this kind of job. Drones usually rely on GPS and must be flown outside whereas IFM’s warehouse inventory management drones use computer vision to navigate a warehouse allowing them to position themselves exactly in front of a package or warehouse shelving unit.

Unfortunately the presentation of this new drone technology didn’t go as planned. Take a look at the video below to find out more about the concept and see why the presentation fell flat.


 
[Video Credit: TechCrunch tcrn.ch/2cmuwQZ]

Even though the drone may not have accomplished its goal on stage, it doesn’t mean this technology will not be a viable alternative to manual inventory management in the near future. A stage is not a warehouse and these drones use computer vision software that is specifically designed to work in a warehouse environment. The concept is there and the technology is maturing rapidly, so we may not have to wait long before drones are flying above our heads in the warehouse. This could be the efficiency boost American warehouses need in order to keep up with growing customer demands.

Sources:

https://techcrunch.com/2016/09/12/intelligent-flying-machines/

http://www.dronescan.co/index.php/is-your-warehouse-drone-ready

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