Autonomous Drone for Warehouse Inspection

Distribution centers and warehouse businesses are sensitive to operation down-time. Any time-consuming repairs can significantly influence warehouse operation and result in reduced operation which ultimately influences customers and decreases revenue. Therefore, regular inspections are crucial to prevent failure of critical infrastructure.

However, regular inspections using traditional methods such as rope access or scaffolding are costly, time-consuming, and cause operation restrictions. Using drones for warehouse inspections offers a fast and cost-effective solution. The drone-based inspection does not require any significant operation restrictions and can be easily performed more often than traditional methods.

The Inspection System

We developed an autonomous drone called INEEGO. The drone and the autonomy solution was built for Aleego, a company which provides indoor inspection solutions of warehouses and other GPS-denied environments.

The system is designed for autonomous navigation in indoor spaces with a partially-known map. The drone can use a predefined path inside the environment as a reference for the inspection task. Since the drone is moving around obstacles like storage racks and boxes we use several sensors to avoid collisions with the environment. The drone is moving along the predefined trajectory and uses on-board sensors for obstacle detection and avoidance. The path itself can be verified or adjusted by the end user prior to the mission.

INEEGO carries a set of different sensors that are used to increase reliability:

  • optical flow from a down-looking monocular camera
  • Velodyne LiDAR’s Puck LITE-16
  • 3D camera
  • LiDAR altitude rangefinder

A collision tolerant frame can be mounted if necessary. The entire trajectory of the inspection can be recorded with a focus on the potentially most problematic parts, such as AC pipelines and their joints, carrier beams, etc. Additionally, barcode / QR code detection can be added to the software. 

System functionalities have been proven in real conditions. The platform can be used for warehouse inspections, as well as for inspection of industrial halls. Operators can benefit from inspection saving costs and improving safety for large retail operations.

The solution is scalable. Removing or adding a sensor can be done easily with just a tiny change in software configuration.

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