DRONES IN GLOBAL SUPPLY CHAINS by Abhilasha Satpathy, DCMME Center Graduate Student Assistant

Two years ago, in an article in SCMR author Nick Vyas outlined real-life applications for drones in the healthcare industry, and predicted other use cases such as pipeline inspections or deliveries of parts and supplies in hard to access areas.

He also noted that “PINC, a provider of yard management systems, has deployed a solution that utilizes drones to identify the location of trailers, shipping containers, and other assets in hard to reach areas. Equipped to carry GPS, RFID, OCR, and barcode readers, the drones can fly overhead to quickly locate and identify assets that have been tagged in a yard or port.”

So, what is the state of drones in the supply chain today?

Companies are focused on improving inventory accuracy to achieve higher supply chain velocity. Tasks like taking inventory and cycle counting are still carried out by humans which can be done more than 300 times faster by drones.

What is the state of the technology? Today, the drone, or robot, flies autonomously in a gps-denied environment using advanced sensors. The company’s warehouse management system (WMS) feeds existing inventory information to the PINC application via integration. When the robot receives a task to count inventory – say the number of cartons on pallets in a storage bay – the software first creates the optimal path for the drone to travel based on mapping done previously.

The drone doesn’t need markers or lasers for guidance to navigate through warehouses. The robot is equipped with an optical system combined with computer vision and deep learning technologies. When it passes through an assigned location, which it knows by the X, Y and Z coordinates, it visually inspects inventory labels and takes photos of the inventory to be counted.

The digital images are processed in real time to generate a count, which is compared against the known count in the WMS system. Since the system manages by exception, after taking inventory, the application provides an exception report to the operator who can click on the exceptions, look at a photo to confirm a count and then, if needed, update the WMS.

Down the road, Yearling expects conversations about using drones in transportation to continue, if for no other reason than the amount of spend on transportation.

References:

https://www.logisticsmgmt.com/article/the_emerging_role_for_drones

 

Questions:

  1. How are drones being used in supply chain today?
  2. How do drones aid Warehouse Management Systems?
  3. How do drones improve inventory accuracy?

Interstellar Drones

In a recent article on the website, DailyMail, the development of extraterrestrial drones is discussed. On a distant Jupiter moon, Europa, there is believed to be oceans. NASA scientists and engineers are working to develop submersible drones that can gather data and detect microbial life by operating in these icy waters. A major requirement for these drones will be for them to operate autonomously and manage their own resources. Only time will tell if these drones will accomplish the mission NASA hopes for.

Smart Bulbs at Risk?

In a recent article on the website, govtech.com, the idea of cybersecurity for smart light bulbs is discussed. With regard to ZigBee and Z-Wave protocol, researchers have found major security flaws in smart light bulbs. Tests conducted on Phillips Hue light bulbs showed that they were able to be ‘infected’ with a code that can spread from lightbulb to light bulb. This is done by having a drone fly within a close proximity and transmit to the light bulbs and then control them remotely. How will companies in the IoT business combat these potential security breaches? Will this slow the growth of the IoT industry? What negative impacts will be felt?

Drone Patrol

In a recent article on the website, Digital Trends, a new type of drone based home security system is discussed. Drones are being used more and more in our day to day lives and these drones are providing extra security for our homes and families. Hi-tech sensors can be placed around the perimeter of your property and will provide updates and alerts based on what is going on within your property. You can then choose to further investigate these problems further, by deploying a drone for surveillance footage. Only time will tell if these becomes the next step in home security systems. Would you buy this? Will this type of system keep home invasions to a minimum? How reliable are these sensors?

Connecting for the Future

In a recent article on the website, Readwrite, the initiative to turn Singapore into a smart nation by 2025, is discussed. With the merging of two government agencies, Singapore has created IMDA to oversee the evolution of the country into a smart, connected nation. IMDA hopes to use IoT, drone technology, virtual reality, connected grids and other new technologies to bring Singapore to the forefront of the globally connected world. Singapore hopes to leverage its flexible economy, non-bureaucratic business environment, and experience with innovation and technology to accomplish these ambitious goals.

Hurting or Helping?

In a recent article on the website, wcsh6.com, the newly passed FAA regulations regarding drones is discussed. These new laws are considered to be very strict and address issues of operation over private property and people, line of sight, altitude, and airspeed. With more and more users joining the airspace it has become necessary in recent years for the FAA to regulate this space for the use of drones. How may these new regulations affect the drone industry? Will these laws discourage people from using drones? It what ways will these regulations positively impact the drone industry/community?

The GoPro Karma

In a recent article on the website, The Verge, the announcement of GoPro’s new drone is discussed. GoPro has just released its first ever drone (The Karma) to accompany to of its newest cameras. The Karma allows for the user to have a more connected experience with its camera and the footage that is recorded. With GoPro having its own drone, the user will be able to “stay” on GoPro’s own ecosystem.