Originally developed for primary use in the military, drones are now used in a variety of different industries like construction, agriculture, insurance, and logistics. By 2024, the drone market is projected to be worth around $43 billion, with warehouse & storage management predicted to show maximum market share in the year 2021, supporting the rise in ecommerce sales. These UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) do not require a pilot and are guided by remote control or computer-controlled with an autonomous flight path.
Drones are used in “smart” warehouses for inventory management by reading RFID labels and barcodes, inventory audits, cycle counting, stock finding, etc. In independent flights through the facility, drones can record the number of units for each SKU. Inventory management is not the only use for UAVs, drones can also assist with many other warehouse tasks and responsibilities like inspections, safety, and security.
Inspections: Warehouses endure a lot of wear and tear, drones can help to monitor and inspect equipment, shelving, racks, ceilings, roofs, etc. By collecting visual data with drones, inspectors can review and determine repair or potential defects.
Safety: In warehouses where heights are involved, drones provide a safe alternative to potentially dangerous situations for warehouse workers; contributing to less workplace injuries.
Security: Sprawling spaces and blind spots appear all over warehouse facilities. Drones can assist guard personnel with surveillance and identifying any suspicious or unusual behavior or movement in and around the warehouse.
GEODIS, a worldwide logistics company, has been experimenting with drones in their warehouses for 2+ years. The quadcopter drones use indoor geolocation technology to move autonomously and safely within the warehouse, scanning the barcodes on pallets and their locations, reporting this data in real time, process it and transmit it to and from the Warehouse Management System (WMS). This allows GEODIS the ability to handle inventory in a fully automated way during the hours when a site is closed, increasing warehouse productivity and safety.
Warehouse drones offer a variety of benefits, including improved productivity, reduced costs, better stock control and reliability, and safer workplaces. With any new technology advantages, there are also some drawbacks to using drones in your warehouse, like high initial costs to implement and the inability for drones to read labels (too small or improperly placed).
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