Although the global drone market is expected to be worth USD 15 billion by 2022, the manufacturing industry was reported to account for less than 2% of drone installations. This is surprising, given that the intelligent aerial vehicles have a variety of industrial uses ranging from surveillance to infrastructure inspection. Neil Bellinger, head of Europe, Middle East and Africa at EU Automation, discusses the benefits of using drones in the manufacturing industry.
The many benefits of drones in manufacturing
Drones are far from just cool flying cameras. Their sophisticated technology allows them to detect and record information where humans can’t, such as in dangerous environments and hard-to-reach areas.
The ban on the use of drones beyond the operator’s view has also been lifted for drones weighing more than five kilograms. This allows larger drones, ideal for commercial and industrial use, to be used more consistently in the manufacturing industry, although their use beyond the visual limits of the driver still requires special approval.
Flying into the future
Typically, the drone’s function is focused exclusively on transport applications, such as “last mile” deliveries. However, there are other benefits, such as improved asset monitoring.
Drones can improve the performance of asset monitoring by using infrared and thermal technologies and get accurate temperature information on machines and production lines.
For example, if temperatures are too high, drones can alert operators in time to fix the problem before equipment failures cause unwanted work stoppages.
Implementing drones in manufacturing can also save time on stock checks. The aerial vehicles can help perform accurate inventory, which is usually a fairly tedious task performed by manually scanning barcodes. Using drones would free up valuable time to concentrate on production instead.
Another benefit is that drones improve workers’ health and safety. Maintenance inspections often require production to be interrupted for safety reasons. However, if a drone were to be used to inspect the machinery, production could continue without compromising the safety of the workers.
Streamlines transport and delivery
Transporting parts between different sections of a factory or warehouse can also be unnecessarily time-consuming. Drones can transport parts weighing up to five kilograms and fly to pick up and deliver. Using drones to transport parts, even short distances, saves valuable time.
Drones can be programmed to fly over buildings and intersections that would otherwise slow drivers down. Various obstacles are detected in real time and routes can be pre-programmed and changed accordingly, enabling an efficient delivery system.
Some issues need to be improved before we are likely to see widespread use of drones in manufacturing, such as battery life and payload capacity. But while the technology requires some improvement, drones are still a useful tool for surveillance and inventory, and one that more manufacturers may want to consider.