Monday, November 16, 2015

Will Drones Be the Future of Logistics?

No longer just a weapon, drones might be flying to your warehouse sooner than you think. The technology behind these miniature-unmanned aircrafts is improving every day. Simultaneously, the cost to own a drone is the lowest it’s ever been. Many in the warehousing industry have toyed with the idea that drones could be the new face of warehouse management and delivery logistics. While this is still a few years off, drone delivery systems are no longer a farfetched idea. 

Amazon recently announced that their company is actively testing drone package delivery, with hopes of delivering goods to consumers within 30 minutes. This might sound a bit alarming, but the company believes it could be possible in as little as four years. Patents, air regulations, and delivery accuracy still need to be tinkered with. After all, Amazon would essentially own the skies, forcing their competitors such as FedEx, UPS, and the US Mail to adapt or die. 

Drones could have another impact on the warehousing industry. As a much more realistic goal, drones could be the future of warehouse inventory. One drone can quickly scan every product, one shelf at a time. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to send one guy and a handheld scanner up and down over and over again in order to scan the entire contents of a warehouse. Does it really take a 100 lb. hand truck to scan the products on the top shelf? Drones could do the same job in a fraction of the time. 

As we understand them now, drones rely on a GPS device to guide them through the world, with accuracy down to the last meter. But in a warehouse setting, drones won’t have the same unrestricted flight patterns. Tight corners, low ceilings and packed shelves will make it harder for the drone to get around. However, new drones will be equipped with intrinsic absolute navigation systems. Without relying on a GPS system, drones can use onboard sensor systems and vision processing systems to determine their proximity to the objects around them. They’ll be able to recognize barcodes, moving gracefully through tight spaces. Using drones for inventory will drastically cut down on labor costs and improve overall efficiency. Warehouses will need to hire drone technicians instead of more hands on deck. 

If and when this technology becomes available, the entire warehousing system will change overnight. If you’re thinking of purchasing a drone for your warehouse, it could arrive in 30 minutes or less.

Guest blog post by

Full disclosure: I am not compensated for posting guest blogs.

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