Do Drones Have a Future in Manufacturing?

Modern technology as a whole has been incredibly disruptive in just about every industry. From blockchain in retail and the supply chain, to IoT and smart sensors in factories, tech is transforming and modernizing nearly every process in today’s world, at an alarming rate. Even something as simple — yet effective — as 3D printing or additive manufacturing is poised to change the world.

With all the innovation happening, it’s easy to miss some of the lesser-known technologies that are making waves in today’s market. One such technology is the consumer and commercial-grade drone.

How Drones Are Making an Impact

While drones may not seem remarkably useful at a glance, especially in certain industries like manufacturing, it’s exactly the opposite in the real world. They are, in fact, incredibly useful thanks to a variety of features and functions.

Not all drones are created equal, yet they do tend to offer similar features and support.

For starters, users can often control them remotely, often with a mobile app. The more expensive drones are nearly autonomous, capable of flying and navigating obstacles with little to no outside input. Keep in mind, some drones do not fly.

Most drones have HD cameras and some form of audio recording equipment on board, which allows them to capture viewpoints that would otherwise be out of reach. Construction crews and real estate administrators, for instance, can use drones to get aerial shots of a property or structure.

Let’s take a look at some of the ways drones are being used in real-world manufacturing settings.

Organizing Warehouses

Warehouses and storage facilities can benefit immensely from the adoption of in-house drones, especially when it comes to fulfillment. Amazon is one outstanding example of a company using drones in real-world scenarios. In their warehouses, they have a series of autonomous robots and drones that work alongside their human counterparts. The company is also planning to roll out drones for a local delivery service, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

Collectively, drones can pick up products, place them back on shelves, move or organize shelving and much more.

Supply Chain Management

Drones can also help manage inventory control, which, in turn, means they can also be useful tools to handle supplies in the manufacturing and development process. Similar to how they would work in a warehouse or storage facility, drones can find, collect and store various supplies or parts within a large structure. Using the right software and control system, they could operate without human input to restock supplies, find new gear and kickstart the order fulfillment process.

As a whole, drones can help the manufacturing industry become much more efficient and sustainable. Imagine drones that can quickly respond to fill orders during the production process, bringing supplies and hardware to the precise area of the factory where workers need them. At least a third of fulfillment centers will adopt robots and drones to boost productivity.

Plant Construction and Renovations

Drones have incredible potential in the construction and real estate industries, land surveying, property assessments and various scoping opportunities. Similarly, they can also locate new plant or factory sites. Nearly all manufacturing companies are expanding their reach into new areas and markets, so this application is especially valuable.

Drones offer a cheap, yet efficient, way to reach new, unmapped areas — especially for construction crews.

Product or Order Delivery

We briefly touched on the idea of Amazon using drones for local delivery, which highlights another outstanding use for the technology. Drones can transport, deliver or pick up various deliveries related to the manufacturing process.

Run out of supplies for a local plant? You can send a drone to another of your warehouses to collect the necessary items. An entire army of drones moving about and working autonomously can significantly improve productivity.

The Future of Drones

Drone technology is still relatively new, which means many more uses and applications will become practical over time. As they become more acceptable in the manufacturing and development industry, we’ll see a variety of new scenarios play out. We may eventually see drones in use to transport and load pallets, for instance. Or, maybe they’ll play a direct role in development, helping other robotics and workers assemble products.

Whatever the case, the future certainly is bright for this highly capable technology.