Drones for Racking & Warehouse Inspection

Last updated on

September 24, 2019


For business operations with large warehouse and distribution centres, it is imperative that operations are running efficiently with minimal down-time. This means that regular inspections are required to ensure that faults are found quickly. These vast locations, often filled with miles of shelving packed with goods stacked right up to the ceiling, can be tricky and dangerous to access, as well as a very slow to walk on foot.

Some warehouses use motorised systems with rollers to move things around, which becomes an inspection issue itself with motors and other parts needing regular maintenance and repairs. These would routinely be checked using scaffolding and a rope access team, which would require the whole system to be shut down for 24 hours, before being fixed and then another cooldown delay before starting up again.

Amazon Factory

Amazon Warehouse & Distribution Centre

How can drones improve warehouse inspections?

In retail infrastructure such as this where there are miles of racking and avenues to manage, fault finding using traditional methods such as rope access or scaffolding can be costly and time-consuming. A drone inspection team or engineer trained to operate a drone can conduct a flight inspection in as little as 5 minutes. By using a drone to conduct the initial inspection this eliminates the requirement for the system to be stopped. Sending up a drone such as the Elios 2 to conduct an initial inspection is a cost-effective and reactive way to locate the problem.

Flyability Elios

Being reactive in operations such as this allows businesses to save thousands on any downtime incurred by a fault. By using a drone for the initial inspection the business also avoids the health and safety risks of sending a worker up to inspect the issue using rope access. By using drones for inspection, rather than take away the need for rope access, using drones empowers workers to conduct initial assessments from the ground safely. There will always be the need for rope access in terms of the mechanical fixing of any faults. Inspection drones should be considered part of the business fault-finding tool-kit.

Drones such as the Elios 2 have an RGB and thermal view to assist in inspection applications, with the 4K camera ensuring only high-quality data is captured. The data recorded can be used to determine the fault, for example, is there a bolt missing or motor failure? This data can be sent quickly onto relevant parties such as technicians, operations managers or suppliers for parts.

Flyability Elios for warehouse

Elios 2 drone for warehouse inspections

The Elios 2 with its collision tolerant frame and Distance Lock feature can also prove a great solution for stock checking within such cramped locations. Either using manual flights or with automated mission planning, you can easily swoop up and down the aisles shooting 4K footage for a quick and easy look around large networks of shelving and stacked goods. If you get creative with barcode scanning software or QR codes you can even do a full stock-take without enduring several days walking around with clipboards and iPads.

“From taking off to identifying an imperfection or problem, you can complete a full inspection within a couple of minutes. This dramatically reduces downtime and eliminates the immediate call for rope access and your team working at height.”

George Burne, UAV Strategist, COPTRZ 


Watch the Elios 2 drone inspecting a National Retailer’s distribution centre

We demonstrated the Elios 2 conducting an inspection of a National Retailer warehouse to show the capabilities of the dual camera. As well as the speed of conducting a warehouse inspection using a drone. In the video, you’ll also hear from UAV strategist George who specialises in drones for inspection applications.

Watch the Elios drone inspecting the ceiling of Pilsner Brewery

Here is another example of an internal inspection application using the Elios. The drone was used to complete a complex indoor ceiling inspection over the factory floor in the Pilsner Urquell brewery, in less than half the time of traditional methods and without shutting down production.

Autonomous Drones for Warehouse Inventory

As well as advances in inspection drones software such as FlytWare now exists to enable off-the-shelf drones to conduct warehouse inventories. This intelligent software allows safe and cost-effective automation of inventory counts in warehouses, distribution centres, and even retail stores such as warehouse clubs.

This rapidly scalable solution for drones in warehousing, seamlessly integrated with warehouse management systems and emits the need for hours of inventory inspections by workers using cherry-pickers, scaffolding and rope access. Software such as FlytWare adapts to a variety of case/pallet storage formats, barcodes, QR codes, and inventory counting processes. FlytWare’s ability to accurately navigate multiple drones in GPS-denied environments is enabled by multi-sensor fusion, computer vision and machine learning techniques.

FlytWare software for Warehouse Inventories

FlytWare software for Warehouse Inventories

Who is currently using drones for warehouse inspection or inventory applications?

With the growth of drones for inspection and the benefits in saving costs and improving safety for large retail operations, it’s only a matter of time before drones become a staple part of business operations. Already, retail giants such as Walmart and Amazon are using drones not just for delivery but also for industrial inspections. Walmart have developed their own drone system with the ability to scan barcodes for warehouse inventories.

Image result for amazon logo

Would you like to know more?

Head to these blog posts to find out more about the Elios 2 inspection drone:

If you are interested in our UAV Strategist George visiting you to conduct a demonstration inspection by drone then contact Coptrz using the form below, call our team on 0330 111 7177 or email us on info@coptrz.com.

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