New drone system can accurately find warehouse items

A new drone technology developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is able to pinpoint items based in warehouses.

Planning a new warehouse starts with an efficient warehouse shelving system and pallet racking, and Greenoaks specialises in the design and installation of such systems. The next requirement is to create a system for storing and locating items. This needs to be as accurate as possible so that there is no mismatch between the inventory recorded on the system and the actual stock.

One way to track stock is to use radio frequency ID tags (RFID) that require no batteries and are inexpensive to produce. Unfortunately, this system is not perfect. In the US, retail giant Walmart has estimated that it lost $3bn due to mismatches between inventory records not matching stock on the shelves.

Researchers at the MIT have developed a system that uses lightweight drones to scan RFID tags. Fadel Adib, of the Sony Corporation that is working at the MIT on the development, said:

“In 2016, the U.S. National Retail Federation reported that shrinkage — loss of items in retail stores — averaged around $45.2 billion annually. By enabling drones to find and localize items and equipment, this research will provide a fundamental technological advancement for solving these problems.”

The drones are being tested in a large retail warehouse and have demonstrated that they can accurately locate items. The technology could constantly monitor stock levels and guide pickers to item locations.

If the drone system proves itself, then it could potentially save UK businesses a great deal of money.

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