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Will drones take off for end-of-line palletising?

28 January, 2014

A Dutch materials-handling specialist is investigating the possibility of using small drone aircraft to move products to end-of-line pallets in factories. Qimarox suggests that using the flying robots in this way could result in compact, flexible and scalable palletising systems.

The idea follows recent proposals from Amazon, UPS and DHL to use drones to distribute parcels to consumers. Qimarox believes that the next step after using drones for external logistics processes, would be to use them for internal logistics.

“Because of the limitations in terms of capacity and ergonomics, using people to stack goods on pallets is no longer an option for most manufacturers of fast-moving consumer goods,” explains Qimarox’s operational manager, Jaco Hooijer. “Drones can fully automate the palletising process, while retaining the much greater level of flexibility and scalability entailed by using real people.”

A big potential advantage of using drones for palletising is that the process could be reconfigured at any time without needing to move or adjust any machines. All that would be needed would be to change the coordinates in the software that controls the drones' flight paths.

Qimarox believes that drones offer many potential advantages for end-of-line palletising

Another advantage is that capacity could be increased or decreased simply by switching drones on or off. It would even possible to use a single drone to operate several end-of-line palletising systems.

The biggest limitation at present is the weight that a drone can carry. Currently, drones are being tested that can lift products weighing up to 2.3kg. However, the technology is developing so quickly that payloads of up to 10kg should be possible in the foreseeable future, says Qimarox.

The company doesn’t expect drone-based palletising systems to be ideal for every manufacturer. It will therefore continue to promote its fast, flexible Highrunner mk7 palletiser system.

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