Through the years, robots and automation have instilled fear in humans. Especially the fear of replacing human workers. However, robots are proving invaluable in making business more profitable and efficient.
The term ‘robot’ finds its origins in Karel Čapek’s 1921 play R.U.R. (which translates to Rossum’s Universal Robots). Although these automated figures took over aspects of human life, they are not “robots” as we currently know the term. The hallmark play reaches a climax when a rebellion led by the robots nearly wipes out all life on Earth. Since, it has fueled concerns of how humanity will handle rising automation.
Although the play was science fiction, it recalls previous fears of technology overtaking human influence. However, the benefits from incorporating robots – or drones – into the workplace can make businesses more effective.
When it comes to this territory, robots have made a marked impact. They are constantly changing the day-to-day labor required in businesses. Recently, they take the form of highly capable drones. Improvements in drone technology and battery life make them even more applicable to workplaces. With these new models, companies will be able to incorporate drones in roles not previously possible.
One example is companies like DroneScan and Hardis Group. These firms use quadcopter tech to improve warehouse inventory management. In addition, WalMart is developing their own version of the technology to compete with Amazon.
Furthermore, using drones in the warehouse goes beyond flying. In 2013, Amazon began using autonomous wheel drones designed by Kiva Systems to organize and prepare merchandise. These drones were designed to work efficiently and never collide with each other. Also, they’re used by companies such as Zappos, Staples, and Walgreens.
There are many benefits of using drones in inventory management and supply chains:
- Efficient Work Completion: Using drones in place of humans for tasks such as barcode scanning can be far more efficient. As DroneScan points out, “A drone operator can count as much stock in a warehouse in two days as a team of 80 people with handheld scanners and reach trucks can count in 3 days.” What does this mean? Overall efficiency with improved rates of inventory management and delivery.
- Energy-Saving: Using drones in place of workers and machines to scan inventory also has energy benefits. Companies are able to save time and energy on the part of employees. Instead of an employee using a lift to access inventory, a lightweight drone can easily scan the respective inventory.
- Safety: Implementing drones to take stock of inventory reduces human interaction with machinery and stock. This reduced exposure to risks helps to reduce workplace dangers to human employees.
Drones are also in design to ship materials directly to consumers. Both Amazon and Starship Technologies are both currently working on these delivery systems to improve their systems’ flexibility and reach. The benefits from using these drones are similar to the inventory management benefits. They would complete work and use company resources in an efficient manner.
However, unlike its inventory management iteration the delivery system has some design disadvantages. Firstly, the issue of drone range is a significant problem. Although companies can implement drone deliveries, it is not yet feasible for long-range. Amazon Prime Air, for example, intends to have its drones service customers within a 10-mile radius of its warehouse locations. Although this is convenient for customers closeby, it excludes those beyond this range.
Another disadvantage of using delivery drones comes from human interactions. An example of how robots could be negatively affected by humans is hitchBOT – a “hitchhiking” robot designed to record its location as it travels. Companies and consumers are rightly concerned about how individuals will interact with drones. Amazon developers believe delivery drones will be treated much like delivery vans. However, the unmanned element still leaves delivery drones prone to attack and theft by humans.
Although consumers worry about the efficacy delivery drones, they prove their value as inventory management tools. With continued research and design improvement, drones will certainly become commonplace in the future. But rest assured, they are not plotting to take over the world. Yet.