Inventory management: Deltrian leads the way due to a 5G-connected drone

Published on 08/09/2023 in Innovate

At Deltrian, we’ll soon be optimizing inventory management with a drone, private 5G connectivity and a dash of artificial intelligence. An unprecedented innovation for the Fleurus-based company that enjoys the support of the Walloon government’s Agence du Numérique.

Inventory management: Deltrian leads the way due to a 5G-connected drone

40,000 items in 15,000 square meters

The right product, at the right time, in the right place. And if possible, at the lowest possible cost and with the best possible quality. This is how we could describe the challenges facing the Logistics sector. Applied to Deltrian, an air filter manufacturer in Fleurus, we are talking about no less than 40,000 items in stock. But also a 15,000 m2 warehouse, 15-meter-high storage racks, and semi-automated inventory management. It is easy to imagine the effects of an anomaly occurring in management, or even in production. And what if a drone could make all the difference?

A consortium for a call for projects

With no complete solution available on the market, the company decided to create its own. Or rather, to co-create one with ID2Move, a specialist in autonomous systems with a particular focus on drones. “Following this request, I immediately made the connection with a call for projects by the AdN (Agence du Numérique). In response, we created the Image Retine (Inventory MAnaGEment with REalTIme droNE) consortium with Proximus NXT, ADA, GSA, and Deltrian,” explains Émilien Watelet, Director of ID2Move.

The 4-axes solution

The solution devised by the consortium partners is a combination of 4 axes linked to the use of a drone. Firstly, real-time information enables instant verification without latency due to Proximus NXT 5G. ADA’s integrated artificial intelligence then provides recommendations for shelf optimization. Then there is the safety aspect, as the drone detects objects that are poorly positioned and present a risk.

Last but not least, there is extended flight capacity due to the link to the robot ensuring an 8-hour continuous charge cycle. Émilien Watelet: “Supporting the drone as it works between staff shifts really makes a difference. Without the feeder robot, you’d need several drones for the same storage volume.”

Perfect alliance between 5G and AI

5G connectivity is the cornerstone of the solution. Stable connectivity enables the drone to constantly send captured images to the servers and feed the algorithm. “We cover the entire depot using a limited number of antennas. This wouldn’t have been the case with Wi-Fi. The 5G coverage is also private to keep the data confined,” explains Frédéric Renette, 5G specialist at Proximus.

Algorithm and recommendations

Behind the scenes, a custom-developed algorithm recognizes labels, counts items, and associates them with a specific zone. Émilien Watelet: “The AI assesses the location based on the dedicated space and can therefore draw up recommendations for warehouse optimization. Other notifications concern the detection of damaged boxes as well. In short, you make better, more informed decisions.”

Co-creation in Wallonia regions

This ‘Proof of Concept’ validated by AdN is of course transferable to other sectors. Émilien Watelet is already thinking about inventory management in the medical, transport, and even defense sectors. “With many variations on this proof of concept when it comes to fresh produce or outdoor materials, for example. I’m delighted to see projects like this one arising from co-creation in the Walloon region and driven by a catalyst of calls for projects like AdN.”

The power of 5G

For his part, Frédéric Renette is pleased to be able to demystify 5G applications once again and demonstrate their added value. “This project is a perfect fit for Proximus NXT. This is no longer a theoretical 36-slide presentation, but a co-created solution that meets a real well-documented need. It’s by bundling everyone’s capabilities that you create a complete solution for the customer. I think the future lies in the magical combination of private 5G and AI. It’s one thing to have real-time data, it’s quite another to be able to interpret it.”

The key aspects of the project according to Émilien Watelet:

  • A consortium of partners with specific complementary skills
  • A clearly expressed need within a real-life situation
  • The desire to co-create an innovative and reproducible solution

The POC (Proof of Concept)

  • Optimization of a 15,000 m2 logistics warehouse
  • Private 5G connectivity
  • 1 drone continuously charged by a robot on the floor
  • Artificial intelligence for interpreting information
  • Link to customer interface for informed decision-making

A 5G Private Network is a closed network built specifically to meet the needs of a particular organisation. It offers higher bandwidth, lower latency and more security than public networks, resulting in better performance, reliability and efficiency. This makes it ideal for companies looking to implement advanced applications such as augmented reality, industrial automation and autonomous vehicles.

Read more about 5G Private Networks Opens a new window


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