Delivery by drones was once considered a concept of the future, but recent developments from Amazon and Google have made these much closer to reality. Certain legal developments have put actual "drone delivery" at a standstill for the moment, but drones are still making big strides in the warehousing industry. In the discussion below, we will explore some of the many ways drones impact distribution centers, and what they could be doing in the future.
Cycle counts are often difficult to complete in large warehouses that cover miles of square footage. Cycle counting drones are designed to fly overhead and complete this task in a timely manner. Drones may also be used to monitor efficiency levels, improve security protocols, and alert managers of issues in the warehouse at the first signs. Simply put, these machines are acting as "eyes in the sky," providing an aerial view of the entire warehouse in a short amount of time.
In the automotive industry, inventory drones are used to monitor vehicles as they make their way through the assembly lines. Once completed, the drones can alert the appropriate parties that the cars are ready to be transported out of the factory. Inventory drones could also be used in other assembly-line industries in the future, but they are mostly used for automotive purposes at this time.
Yard management drones are in charge of watching after equipment in trailer yards. They monitor the assets in the facility and make note of anything that may be missing or out of place. These drones are specifically designed to handle outdoor elements, as opposed to other drones that are made to work indoors. Outdoor drones have to be able to withstand acts of precipitation, heavy wind, and more as they fly.
Asset location drones are designed to do exactly what their name states – locate assets. They can cover a large area on a map searching for high-value assets on the property. These drones may not apply to the warehousing industry specifically, but their capabilities could be transformed for warehousing in the future.
When delivery drones first hit the scene, the Federal Aviation Administration set strict guidelines about how these machines can operate and where they can fly. The organization's initial proposal stated that the drones had to be under 55 pounds, remain in sight for the pilot, and could not be flown over people. That put a huge damper on the concept of last-minute drone deliveries, especially in larger cities. Amazon sent its drone research to locations outside of the United States, and the U.S. Senate Committee approved for the drone usage bill to be reorganized. Now the FAA has two years to create new rules for drone deliveries.
With the amount of ups and downs drones have gone through recently, it's hard to pinpoint a time as to when real-time delivery by drones will become a "norm" in American society. For now, drones are improving a number of other areas in warehousing, and their technologies will continue to be explored in the future.
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