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The drone was developed in collaboration with Czech drone specialists Robodrone Industries , based on that company’s “Kingfisher” model. It has six rotors, can fly at up to 20 km/h, and can carry loads of up to 5 kg. During the current test period from May 2018, it has recorded the number of empty containers outside one of the factory buildings completely autonomously three times a day. The data is automatically transmitted to the IT systems in Škoda’s logistics department for further processing. Because the container locations cannot be detected accurately enough with GPS, the drone has been equipped with LIDAR (light detection and ranging) technology for highly precise optical distance and speed measurement. The drone navigates using a 3D map based on the LIDAR data. It identifies and counts containers using algorithms that were jointly developed by Škoda and Robodrone.

In the medium term, the drone is to be integrated into regular operations. For the second stage of development, there are plans for the battery-powered device to fly itself to a charging station. “Drones support and speed up the inventory process,” says Michael Oeljeklaus, head of sales and logistics at Škoda. This type of process is expected to be fully automated in future.