Forget Mistletoe Drones, These Inventory Drones Are Where It’s At

Let Amazon have its scuttling crab-like robots that can move entire shelves – a German company is working on an inventory management system that will fly around warehouses and confirm whether items are in stock. The Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics has created a sort of mobile antenna that can move through a warehouse and ping RFID tags (or read barcodes) on inventory items. Called InventAIRy, the project allows managers to get an autonomous review of their inventory in a few minutes by a drone or series of drones.

In this project, the IML researchers are moving toward the goal of engineering autonomous flying robots that are capable of independently navigating and conducting inventory. These flying assistants should be able to localize objects both in the warehouses as well as the exterior area, and be able to track through barcodes and RFID tags. The advantage: These robots act independent of ground-based obstructions. Furthermore, they can move in any direction and see into hard-to-reach places, such as tall storage shelves.

These sorts of autonomous robots aren’t new but they do offer a decidedly interesting use for drone technology. While everyone else is delivering beers and hurting people, these quiet drones can do some actual work while flitting around warehouses. They also map their environments automatically, a feature that ensures you won’t have to install difficult-to-manage beacon systems or indoor GPS analogs.

I, for one, welcome our warehouse drone overlords.