Supply chain drone earns FAA 333 exemption

By Luke Geiver | December 03, 2015

California-based warehouse and logistics solutions provider PINC now has the opportunity to put its supply chain drone to commercial use. The company was recently awarded a U.S. Federal Aviation Administration section 333 exemption to operate its small unmanned aircraft system for commercial purposes. The system is equip with sensors that include GPS, radio frequency identification (RFID), optical character recognition (OCR) and barcode readers.

When deployed at a warehouse or outdoor logistics hub featuring transport trucks, the sUAS can perform preplanned flights and acquire truck location data using its array of sensors. The system can also fly a warehouse to capture inventory data. The system operates in geo-fenced commercial zones while under the supervision of qualified personnel.

Tennessee-based logistics provider, Kenco, is already looking to deploy the supply chain drone. “Kenco wants to use drones for managing real-time data gathering in outside yard operations,” said Kristi Montgomery, vice president of Kenco Innovation Labs. Kenco will use the sUAS to track assets and gain real-time information. Kenco and PINC will partner in bringing its first drone-enable site into existence.

“By taking a holistic view, PINC can help Kenco gain even better insights into their business process execution, labor utilization, asset utilization and inventory management,” said Matt Yearling, PINC CEO.

The system can make automated yard asset checking scenarios more efficient through the use of the drone. Upon entering a yard, an RFID tag placed on a unit (truck or package) can be scanned. A the supply chain drone can then fly an automated route and read the RFID tags of the recent entry or other units already there. Trailer or package locations are then displayed to the user of the system as the drone passes by the RFID tagged item.