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Drones and Manufacturing

Philip Barnes
14 April 2020

Drones in Manufacturing

In 1898, Nikola Tesla demonstrated the “Teleautomaton” at the Madison Square Garden’s first Electrical Exhibition. 

It was the first ever radio-controlled device in the form of a miniature boat. There were actually two devices: one that could be controlled remotely above water, and another with a hidden loop antenna which could be controlled under water.

He kept the core technology hidden at the time to prevent them from being stolen. 

But he later revealed that it consisted of a method for encoding and decoding wave frequencies directly from within the device. His devices required a system within them that was capable of toggling actions based on different signals. 

Today, we know this as a logic gate, and this forms the basis for a host of industries and inventions that feed the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) industry today.

These include: the modern computer, robotics, radio, wireless connections, and of course, remote controlled vehicles and weapons also known as drones. 

For manufacturers, drones offer endless possibilities - from simplifying inspections to boosting productivity, asset monitoring and delivery processes. 

But those investing in drones without also investing in supporting applications will only achieve limited success, as Kevin Bull’s article in the Manufacturer explains.

Manufacturers have so far been sluggish to realise the full potential of drones. 

Although the value of the drone market is now worth billions of dollars, the manufacturing industry accounts for less than 2% of deployments. 

But the technology should not be under-estimated. Far from just being a tool to take pictures, drones can obtain information in ways that were previously deemed too dangerous, difficult or even unnecessary.

The success of drone deployments will largely hinge on a manufacturer’s ability to put in place a strong, supporting digital infrastructure. Drones, complemented by the right technologies, can optimise operations in four main ways: 

Enhanced Asset Monitoring – Drones can provide an overall view of production lines preventing and identifying potential issues. 

Increased Compliance – Any image captured during asset monitoring should be filed away for the plant maintenance record. Recording temperature checks, production line observations and faults from drone images this way means manufacturers can ensure high levels of regulatory compliance. 

Inventory Checks – By scanning radio frequency chips and barcodes, drones are able to perform inventory checks in far less time than a manual process. 

Mobility across sites – Drones have the capacity to carry five kilograms and are well suited to fly to central warehouses to collect spare parts and deliver them to work areas, without compromising safety.

Drones have only recently enjoyed uptake in the manufacturing industry – but they are here for the long haul. But in order for manufactures to make a success of this technology will depend on how they can support the technology and make it part of their everyday business operations and maximise this potentially transformational technology. 

Read the full article here.