The Science Behind MIT Researchers Using Drones to Track Warehouse Inventories

Warehouses contain a lot of goods that may be either stolen or misplaced. It is also challenging to track down boxes or products that are missing. However, with the MIT researchers' invention of the RFID drones, these incidences are gradually reducing. MIT researchers spent a lot of time and effort in creating these amazing drones to help in the management of products in warehouses.

The RFID Drones

The Radio frequency ID drones are spectacular small drones that fly around a warehouse to read RFID tags on inventory. They can read a tag from tens of meters away with an average error of 19 centimeters. Since the warehouse-safe small UAV proofed to be ineffective in carrying RFID readers, the talented MIT researchers invented drones with RFID-reading systems. RFID was branded RFly by the researchers.

How the MIT Researchers Fixed the RFID Problems

RFID drones are imperfect just like the other machines. First, the RFID transmits the reader and tag simultaneously because of their wireless-powered design. During the transmission process, there are a total of four simultaneous transmissions including two relays between the reader and the other two between the relay and the tag. This scenario poses a challenge in transmitting the signal called phase shift.

The problem is worsened by the location-detection system for locating RFID tags. A signal broadcast towards a cluster of antennas is likely to reach them at different angles. As a result, a phase shift occurs thus making the drone to read a different location for a particular product. This problem would be mitigated through decoding a received transmission from the tag and re-encoding it for transmission to the reader. Unfortunately, this would result in changing the relative phase of the signals and giving inaccurate results.

The drones 'RFID tag did not have independent power sources. Furthermore, the modulations were smaller compared to other readers. This problem prompted the MIT researchers to create an analog filter, first, subtract the base transmission frequency for the reader. Secondly, the system would carry out a separation process of the high-frequency from the low-frequency. Lastly, the low-frequency is added to the base frequency. Moreover, the low-frequency component is the tag's signal.

The MIT researchers designed an independent RFID tag for each drone. The drones would alternate between relaying the signal of the reader to an item's tag and allowing the independent tag to reflect the signal back to the drone. This would enable the reader to estimate the contribution of the drone to the phase shift and eliminate such a problem.

RFID in the Workplace

Warehouses have different types of people including young and old. Introducing a technology such as a RFID to such an environment is bound to create different opinions. Therefore, you should apply a few tips before making the formal introduction. First, you should check in with the workers regularly to confirm how they are feeling about the invention. You should give them an opportunity to express their opinions.

Secondly, you should learn to interact with workers, particularly in the warehouse. This is important because of they will feel appreciated and valuable to be entrusted with that technology. Additionally, the interaction with workers empowers their morale to work with your other clients efficiently.

Besides shipping and manifesting, warehouses have several sectors that would benefit from the print and apply systems. These systems involve a bar code scanner designed for identifying specific parcels, a conveyor for labeling, inducting, and discharging as well as a print apply machine. They also include a verification scanner for reading printed labels and software for merging data. Therefore, these systems have resolved the issue of printing labels in companies, warehouses, and the shipping industry.

Conclusively, the RFID drones have a great potential in reducing criminal activities in warehouses such as theft of good. The MIT researchers are working towards perfecting the functionality of these drones. It is also important to create a favorable environment in the warehouse to ensure workers accept these drones.

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Comment by Joe Buzz Drones on November 7, 2017 at 10:55am

There has been some recent news in the UK about the Amazon warehouses and the potential of these applications... it's quite interesting...


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