November 21, 2018

Škoda Auto Tests Autonomous Drone For Logistics 

Skoda is testing autonomous drone technology at one of its Czech plants
Skoda is testing autonomous drone technology at one of its Czech plants

Škoda Auto is currently testing a drone that can identify and count containers outside its Mladá Boleslav plant in the Czech Republic.

The drone is a result of collaboration between the Škoda’s logistics department and the Czech company Robodrone, and is paving the way to implementing drone-assisted stocktaking in everyday operations in future.

“We are continuously working on improving the efficiency of our everyday production processes and making work easier for our employees,” said Michael Oeljeklaus, Škoda Auto Board Member for Production and Logistics. “Drones assist with and speed up the stocktaking process. As a key pillar of our 2025 Strategy, such processes will take place completely automatically in everyday operations in future.”

With its six rotors, the drone, based on Robodrone’s ‘Kingfisher’ model, can fly up to 20 km/h and can carry a load of up to 5 kg. During the current testing phase, it fully autonomously records the number of empty containers outside a factory hall in Mladá Boleslav three times per day. The data is then automatically transferred to the IT systems at Škoda’s logistics department to be processed.

The company says that as GPS is not precise enough to determine the locations of the containers, the drone is equipped with LIDAR (light detection and ranging) technology to accurately measure speed and distance. A LIDAR sensor captures up to 300,000 images per second. The drone navigates using a 3D map, which is created based on this technology. Simultaneously it detects and counts the equipment containers.

Test operations have been running since May. In the medium term, the drone will be integrated into regular operations while in the second development phase, the ‘Kingfisher’ will get its own ‘nest’: the battery-powered device will then be able to autonomously navigate to a charging station. This will also be equipped with a weather station which will provide the drone with information about the weather at short notice.