The Device Chronicle interviews Simon Falsig, Head of Engineering Operations, Verity, on drones in industrial settings.
Simon Falsig is leading the operational aspects of development, leading DevOps, Release Management, QA, and Security efforts at Verity. He has a background in electrical engineering and embedded systems - robotics and FPGA. He has done work in embedded Linux and, in 2016, joined Verity working on drone shows and indoor drones to make live entertainment shows in concerts and theaters.
Indoor drones for stock-taking and inventory checks
Verity is the technology and market leader for autonomous inventory management systems powered by self-flying drones, so the challenge was using technology and expertise to provide business value in the industrial segments - so to help companies make their operations more efficient. The new use case was warehouse inventory, which has evolved into Verity’s core business. Now, Simon and his team is working with INGKA Group and DSV to provide a drone-enhancing inventory checking solution for their warehouses. Every night and weekend, when the warehouses are not in active operation, the drones hover around the warehouses, inventory what is there, and provide insights back to the warehouse managers. One hundred drones have been deployed with INGKA Group.
Complement standard warehouse management
The whole use case complements existing inventory management, the warehouse management system knows the slots and what they should contain, but pallets need to be found or have the right bar code. So the slots can be empty and have the wrong stock when the forklift driver arrives, creating an additional burden for warehouse operations. In the more giant warehouses, they have dedicated teams looking for lost pallets; even with a system, dynamic stock checks are required; in the old way, the operator would go into a cage in a forklift to do manual stock-taking. This could be hazardous and is resource and time-consuming.
The drones are placed in the warehouse, and an update comes from the MES on what the warehouse should contain, and different reports can be scheduled based on drones scanning various parts of the warehouse. The drones fly off and check the defined area, review the slots and barcodes, and detect if the space is full or empty. The report is simply a scan of the slots and is fully autonomous; there is nothing for the operator to trigger on the drones.
The drones use embedded Linux, a camera, and control systems. There are several different software components on the drone that can be triggered as a single release, and the support team triggers the new build through a one-button software deployment. Developers need to be decoupled from the operational process.
The drones are managed and kept optimal using a mature logging system that provides operational data on how the drone works; there is close to real-time access to these logs. Various scripts and dashboards are tracking what is happening with the drones in almost real-time, where part replacements might be needed, or if there are any issues with the software systems on the drones.
Protecting the drones with security by design
When it comes to cybersecurity, a thorough threat assessment has been carried out. The system has been made as secure as possible for the modeled scenarios. You must ensure that whatever is installed on the drone is what should be installed. Everything deployed must be upgraded easily over the air (OTA) so that a bug or a compromised component can be updated remotely and quickly without having to ship the drone back to the base. A base layer is there to leverage secure communication, encryption, and authentication based on AWS with a homegrown OTA solution. Choices have to be made to do image updates or incremental updates.
We wish Simon and his colleagues at Verity well as they continue to raise efficiencies in warehouses and in inventory management.