Here’s how drones streamline warehouse operations

There are over 19,000 warehouses in the United States alone, with operations ranging from very basic to highly complex.

These repositories of goods and supplies employ over 8 million people, a number that’s growing at a rate of 5.99% annually.

Millions of different items are stored within their towering shelves and fields of pallets, with some of the biggest facilities even exceeding over 1 million square feet.

In these vast complexes, it’s no wonder that some businesses, like tech giant Amazon, even integrate robots into their workflow in hopes of gaining efficiencies.

To keep track of the flow of goods in these warehouses, it takes a well-orchestrated integration of people and machines – including drones.

As the world slowly recovers from the pandemic and the strained global supply chain, many experts believe that more warehouses are coming.

These days, just about everything can be purchased online, and it all needs a placed to be stored before someone makes a purchase. 

Amazon recently announced investments in more facilities with robotic team members, but the e-commerce company isn’t the only one building more storage space. In just the last ten years, the number of warehouses in the United States has increased by over 20% with no sign of stopping.

For those operating warehouses, it’s vital to keep these operations safe, secure, and efficient.

Profit margins are often thin and are easily erased if goods are stolen, or if the operation is plagued by inefficiencies.

Drones help make sure things stay on track and under budget.

There are many use cases where drones and warehouses work well together. Three, in particular, stand out as having the most potential for long-term benefits to both the warehouse and UAV industry.

Drones Help Warehouse Inventory Management

It’s a challenging job to keep track of where goods are stored, how long they’ve been there, where they need to go, and how to optimize their placement in a facility.

For quite some time, barcodes and RFID transmitters have been the standard tool for accomplishing this task.

Unfortunately, using these dated methods often requires people to move around the warehouse and scan everything manually. It’s time-consuming and, for products stored high off the ground, potentially dangerous work.

However, equipped with their flying cameras and suitable software, drones can quickly move through a warehouse and track the flow of goods.

The data collected by drones can be immediately analyzed to determine if changes in the product’s location must be made.

In this role, UAVs are excellent at producing accurate inventory counts as well. As drone AI continues to improve, it will likely help to fully automate warehouse operations.

Security With UAVs

Damage or theft to property and stored goods in a warehouse are a major concern to facility owners and operators.

Internal and external threats can cause financial loss, fuel the black market, and eventually increase the price of goods. Traditionally, the responsibility of keeping track of everything in a warehouse falls on security personnel and cameras.

Unfortunately, cameras have blind spots, and there are rarely enough security guards to monitor an entire facility.

When threats are internal, employees often know where blind spots are and when to avoid guards on hourly checks. Here, drones become a force multiplier.

Their ability to fly around a facility means blind spots are eliminated. Additionally, UAVs can also have randomized patrol times and paths to make predicting their presence nearly impossible.

Drone Deliveries

Depending on the size and weight of goods, drones may be ideal for moving products throughout warehouse environments.

As people move goods on the ground, pathways can get congested, slowing goods from reaching their next destination.

UAVs can maximize space in the air that is mostly inaccessible to people. Because of this, drones add another dimension to movement in the facility.

In addition to movement within warehouses, drones may become the best solution to the last mile problem.

Warehouses are strategically placed to take advantage of transportation infrastructure and store goods near consumers.

But, sometimes the best route may be to fly products to consumers directly from where they are stored. Drones, along with sensors for obstacle avoidance and improved AI, may soon be the primary tool for delivery.

The Takeaways

Managing large warehouses is a tough task, with a lot of responsibilities to balance.

Personnel are often in short supply, and the physical limitations of people on the ground means that looking to the air above might be the answer to these problems.

Between inventory management, security, and delivery, drones present an ideal platform for warehouse operations.

As UAV technology continues its rapid expansion, many of the largest stakeholders are turning to drones as a significant component of their facility’s future.

As time goes on, this is sure to be one application where UAVs continue to become more and more relied upon.

So, which drone is right for you? And, how do you get started? Do you hire out or bring your drone program in-house?

At Consortiq, we help you find a better way with drones, from consultation and program implementation to actually doing the work for you.

Ready to learn more? Just complete the form below to schedule a risk-free consultation!

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly, is an award-winning photographer/writer and licensed (FAA) Commercial sUAS pilot. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, David is a former Marine Corps officer with a BS in Oceanography and has earned his MBA from the University of Redlands. David has worked for Fortune 100 companies and has a background in aerospace, construction, military/defense, real estate, and technology.

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