The Perfect Swarm: Drones Descend on Manufacturing

Fitted with super processors and advanced sensors, industrial drones are locked and loaded, ready to bring speed and efficiency to new heights. From light material handling to visual inspection to damage control, unmanned aerial vehicles surpass what humans can do in less time and for less money.

Con Edison in New York have already found that sending a drone to check a boiler pipe is more effective than building 10 stories of scaffolding.  Your company might use them to check building health.

The FAA predicts 4.8 million drone sales in 2017, nearly double 2016’s numbers. Most striking is that sales of commercial drones, which require FAA registration, will increase to 2.5 million. That’s a 416% increase. Drones aren’t toys; they’re legitimate tools that every major supply chain in America is rushing to adopt.

You’ve heard about Google, Walmart, and Amazon’s massive drone delivery projects. Ironically, manufacturing is an area that rarely uses drones, but desperately needs them.  One reason may be the more complicated layout of an assembly plant: people, robots, welding and other processes. Another reason might be the level of skill required to program and/or pilot a manufacturing drone.

Keep in mind, again, it is not a toy we are talking about.  This technology is quite sophisticated, such as Qualcomm Snapdragon Flight platform, which comprises proprietary flight control software, a 12-g mother board the size of a credit card, a 2.26Ghz quad-core cpu, gpu, dsp, a 4K camera, comprehensive wireless connectivity, and it’s loaded with sensors. These include the accelerometers, gyros and cameras that will keep the drone aloft and able to fulfill jobs ranging from photography to visual inspection.

Qualcomm's 3D-printed drone.

Qualcomm’s 3D-printed drone. (Photo credit: Debbie Lefever)

Using the onboard cameras and sensors, the drones are able to autonomously determine their own flight paths, finding the most efficient routes, while avoiding obstacles, maintaining elevation, and countering adverse winds or loss of GPS signals.

There are many sectors that can take advantage of this technology to become more productive and efficient.

>> Read more by John Hitch, New Equipment Digest, March 10, 2017