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PINC Brings RFID, Optic Sensor Drones Indoors With Fuel Cells

The company is partnering with Intelligent Energy to power its new indoor drones with fuel cells, thereby ensuring a longer operational time before refueling.
By Claire Swedberg

Intelligent Energy has now developed an air-cooled fuel-cell system for drones.

PINC reports that it already has eight pilots under way involving indoor drones flying through distribution centers—several of which are nearing completion, with permanent deployments now being prepared. Some employ batteries, but are now testing the use of fuel cells.

Intelligent Energy's Julian Hughes
"All large companies are looking at drone technology," Yearling says, "and they have multiple use cases. It's not all about supply chain [inventory tracking]." He says retailers, manufacturers and logistics providers are all at least testing the use of drones to capture inventory data, look for damage or changes to inventory, and accomplish other tasks, all with a single drone.

In the case of inventory tracking outside of a warehouse, automobile manufacturers and other companies are applying RFID tags to finished vehicles. As such, drones can capture each tag's ID number as it flies overhead during a daily inventory count.

Thus far, Yearling says, most of the outdoor drone-based solutions that PINC offers use RFID and optics technology for inventory location and counts, while optical technology is being used indoors. Optics also allow users to view finished vehicles, and to pull up images of interest to see the results of the assembly work.

The use of fuel cells, Hughes says, may make regular inventory via drones more realistic for large companies that need the power per flight that would keep the drone in the air until the entire inventory count can be completed. "I think it helps enable the use of drones in DCs and warehouses, where the inventory needs to be inspected daily or twice daily," he states. "The additional flight time on the drone will save a huge amount in lost inventory. We are talking to a number of industries where extended flight time is important."

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