RFID-Enabled Drones ready for new Applications

Year of the Drone?

Last year we blogged that drones were beginning to be equipped with RFID readers for use in several innovative RFID applications—including tracking endangered animals (http://tinyurl.com/zdyr4yl).

Drones have been becoming mainstream and are no longer only for high-end military uses or for entry-level hobbyists. New commercial drones are being equipped with RFID technology to identify objects and important assets that have RFID tags attached to them and is now being deployed for remote and unattended inventory and asset tracking. Drones are being used in construction for such activities as laydown yard inventory sweeps that were previously often done manually. Initially these RFID-enabled drone applications are being targeted at the construction and warehouse inventory domains, but they may soon enjoy wider use.

PINC (http://www.pincsolutions.com/), for example, offers drones that provide automatic identification and location of hard to reach assets in upstream supply chain applications. They have developed PINC air as a sensor platform that locates and identifies hard to reach assets, both outdoors and indoors. It can be adapted to carry sensors including RFID, GPS, OCR and Barcode readers.

Several use cases for their Supply Chain Drone include:

  • Yard Management Drone: Asset inventory tracking for trailer yards
  • Inventory Drone: Inventory checks for finished vehicles in the automotive industry
  • Asset Location Drone: Locating high-value assets across a geographically dispersed area
  • Cycle Counting Drone: Warehouse inventory management

One specific use of RFID-enabled drones was for their use in capturing data from RFID Sensors on Bridges. Combined with flying robots, such sensors could monitor the conditions of aging bridge spans (http://www.rfidjournal.com/articles/view?12360).

Researchers at Tufts University in Massachusetts are working on a way to use flying robots and RFID sensors to monitor the condition of aging spans. Babak Moaveni, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Tufts, attached wired sensors to beams and joints on a bridge on the Tufts campus to continuously monitor vibrations. Significant changes in vibration levels can indicate damage. Moaveni teamed up with Usman Khan, a Tufts assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, who has been working on algorithms that enable robots to collaborate and navigate an environment. Khan developed a platform for controlling and synchronizing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Several pilots and proof of concepts for the combination of drones and RFID technologies are currently be developed. When these two technologies are fully implemented, the integrated technologies will improve construction project management and provide immediate material information on the job site. The successful combination of drones and RFID will provide additional information that can be used in conjunction with other construction systems including Building Information Modeling (BIM) models and project supply chain management software.

Selection of the best RFID and drone equipment is very important to the success of the implementation. For example, two areas that need to be addressed for improved tag identification and system implementation in the field are the RFID reading range and the drone’s battery life.

This year the Drones Middle East conference (http://www.dronesmiddleeast.com/) was held in Dubai from 24 -27 January 2016 to hold presentations and exhibits on the use of drones with RFID and for many other innovative and forward looking solutions. A primary purpose of the conference was to understand the regulations and applications of unmanned system technologies.

For more information on RFID including readers, printers, labels & tags, and accessories contact us at the Gateway RFID store (https://gatewayrfidstore.com/).