The buzz from above

The buzz from above

When it comes to ‘stacking and tracking’ the bigger you are the more chance there is for small issues to accumulate into sizeable losses. For some large companies and organisations these losses are extraordinary. Now technology is rising to the challenge…

Inventory control is often both a source of pride and a pain in the behind for busy Kiwi companies. It seems that no matter how accurate and focused the process is there’s always something that slips through the cracks.

It’s a serious issue too – these ‘slips’ add up to billions of dollars each year globally. Which is why considerable effort is being made to come up with new ways of keeping count of what’s going where.

In this article MIT researchers share the discoveries and development of a small, aerial drone system that can read RFID tags from many metres away while locating the tag with an average error of only 19 centimetres.

 “Between 2003 and 2011, the U.S. Army lost track

of $5.8 billion of supplies among its warehouses.”


The drones can quickly scan each stack and, when their power is low, return to the nearest charging station. While the thinking behind the system is certainly interesting it’s the figures quoted in the article that will certainly raise an eyebrow or two…

“Between 2003 and 2011, the U.S. Army lost track of $5.8 billion of supplies among its warehouses,” says Fadel Adib, the Sony Corporation Career Development Assistant Professor of Media Arts and Sciences, whose group at the MIT Media Lab developed the new system.

“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.”

Since the article was published in 2017 the technology has progressed even further. In 2020 Californian technology company Ware launched “the first warehouse inventory automation system built on Skydio 2, the world’s smartest drone.” While not the first of its kind, the considerable investment in this sector and subsequent rapid advancement of technology means that such systems are going to be increasingly within reach for everyday use.

With innovation in tracking and packaging, goods are being shipped safer, faster and with far more efficiency. Who knows what helpful technology will arrive tomorrow?


How drone tech is helping keep track of stock

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