Are drones and RFID technology the answer to warehouse inventory control?

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If you ask 25 people to count jellybeans in a jar, you’ll probably get many different answers. Now apply it to inventory control—it’s a difficult task. Counting and taking inventory is a time-consuming process that quite often contains inaccuracies, costing companies time and money.

Justin Patton, director of the Auburn University RFID Lab, comments on how drones and RFID technology can help in inventory control.

How can drones help in inventory control?

The world is full of inventory. We’ve got warehouses full of product pretty much in every city you go to in the U.S. And a lot of times those warehouses don’t even know what they all have.

One of the things were trying to get to now is methods and models where we can take inventory in an automated fashion. Let’s do it faster and let’s do it easier. You know, people are made for greater things than standing there and counting stuff.

Computerized systems, or electronic systems, are much faster and better at doing that. So we could start doing things like a drone or automated system on a either a ground robot or flying drone, then you can go out there and take inventory very quickly, especially with RFID or computer vision, whatever it may be. It solves a lot of problems in terms of time and effort and it vastly increases our accuracy. The more stuff we know where it is: the better, cheaper, faster, more efficient, more sustainable. It’s good for everybody.

How does the process work?

For example, I may have a drone that has an RFID scanner which you can see here in the lab. And as it flies up and down the row, it’s scanning all the items in that pallet or even the tags that are on that pallet. At the same time, it also has a camera system that’s scanning that environment as well.

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