When it’s Okay to Fly a Drone Inside a Ford Factory

Joan Carbó and drone inside a warehouse at Ford's Almussafes facility in Spain

VALENCIA, Spain – Flying drones inside factories to better monitor stock levels might sound fanciful, but that’s exactly what’s being piloted at Ford’s Almussafes facility in Valencia right now.

Valencia University student and former Ford Apprentice Joan Carbó is experimenting with a system which uses RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aircraft System) technology and artificial vision to more accurately keep tabs on material supplies, while saving money, too.

Although drones are commonly used in industry, what makes this application unique is there is no drone pilot. Instead, a computer makes the decisions.

The pilot has been carried out in the Engineering Department of the Engine Plant Almussafes under the tutelage of Vicente Delgado (Ford) and Enrique Berjano (Universitat Politècnica de València,).

“Material inventory is a long and costly manual process. It also involves risks of handling loads at height,” explains Vicente Sánchez, Plant Engineering Supervisor. “Using drones for this work has many benefits. Firstly, you don’t have to stop vehicular traffic to allow people carrying out the inventory to work in safety. Then there are considerable cost savings as well.  Also, using fully automated drones rules out human error so the process is much more reliable.”

Jaime Ortiz-Cañavate, Manufacturing and Plant Engineering Manager, told @Ford: “Currently, pilot tests of the system are being carried out in the production warehouse of the Almussafes Engine Plant. This project demonstrates the benefits of Ford’s close relationship with the university.”

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