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UHF Reading Drone Tracks Vehicles, Assets

FEIG Electronics has teamed up with Tiger Labs and Congruex to develop a drone that can capture passive UHF RFID tag reads from a height of 25 feet, then forward that data, along with GPS-based location information, via Wi-Fi, LoRa or Zigbee.
By Claire Swedberg
Apr 23, 2019

Several companies that manage large volumes of vehicles are piloting a passive RFID-based drone solution that captures the tag IDs of UHF RFID tags on vehicles, then forwards that data to a server, either in real time or via a Wi-Fi connection after the drone has completed its flights. The drones enable users to collect data regarding where thousands of vehicles are located across large areas, with an accuracy of about 8 feet.

The solution is the result of collaborative efforts between RFID company FEIG Electronics, electronics product development firm Tiger Labs Corp. and drone technology company CCLD Technologies, owned by Congruex. The three Atlanta-based businesses teamed up to develop an RFID-enabled solution for use by the automotive market, to automatically locate and identify vehicles in large yards or storage lots, at a relatively low cost. The companies displayed the resulting technology at this year's RFID Journal LIVE! conference, held this month in Phoenix, Ariz.

The RFID-enabled drone
Initially, FEIG and its integration partners sought a solution that would provide inventory data to the automotive industry, in which high-value products (new vehicles) need to be tracked in large yards or storage lots. Other industries, such as construction and utilities, also need to track materials or products in sprawling outdoor lots, says Rob Ufford, FEIG Electronics' sales representative, who cites building sites for power plants as one use case in which building materials need to be located within a laydown yard.

In previous years, Ufford had already developed active RFID-based drone solutions for the National Institute of Hometown Security (NIHS), in support of a project with the University of Kentucky to monitor the health status of cattle based on their daily movements. In fact, he says, most RFID reading drones employ active RFID, in part because the readers can be smaller and lighter-weight.

However, Ufford adds, active RFID isn't economical in cases such as tracking vehicles in a large storage area, since the tags are too expensive and rely on batteries to operate. "With the sheer size of the area you have to cover and the volume of the vehicles, it makes more economic sense to use a low-cost, disposable tag," he states, "so we selected a UHF RFID tag." The partners are using FEIG's MRU102 reader with the company's circular-polarized antenna, which can be built into a drone to read those tags.

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