Warehouse drones take flight – TechCrunch


Drones are neat and fun and all that good stuff (I should probably add the caveat here that I’m obviously not referring to the great and terrible military variety), but when it comes to quadcopters, there has always been the looming question of overall utility. The consumer-oriented variety is pretty much the preserve of fans and images.

We’ve seen a number of interesting applications for things like agricultural surveillance, real estate, and the like, all of which are effectively extensions of that imaging capability. But you can do a lot with a camera and the right processing. One of the most interesting applications that I have seen crop up here and there is the warehouse drone, something perhaps a bit contradictory, as it is likely (and understandably) to associate drones with the great outdoors.

Looking back, it seems we’ve actually had two different warehouse drone companies competing in Disrupt Battlefield. There was IFM (intelligent flying machines) in 2016 and Vtrus two years later. That’s really the tip of the iceberg for a huge list of startups effectively pushing to bring drones to warehouses and factories.

The list now also includes Corvus robotics, a YC-backed startup presumably named for the bird genus that includes surprisingly intelligent species such as crows and ravens (although, presumably, these don’t travel together in murders). The company calls its offering “the world’s first unmanned warehouse inventory drones,” which is potentially debatable.

But the offer is interesting, nevertheless, fly effectively to scan pallets for inventory purposes. According to a piece of IEEE spectrum, the level four autonomous drone network is capable of scanning 200 to 400 pallets per hour, including downtime spent recharging (flying is hard work).

third wave automation

Image credits: Third wave automation

Speaking of that holy grail of the total warehouse automation industry, Third Wave Automation just announced a $ 40 million Series B, led by Norwest Venture Partners and with Innovation Endeavors, Eclipse and Toyota Ventures. The latter has been working with the Bay Area-based startup to develop an autonomous forklift, because, among other things, forklift accidents affect many people each year.

Here is CEO Arshan Poursohi:

We have covered almost every type of robot out there. But all these robots that we built ended up, you know, in a closet somewhere because ultimately Google or, in my case, Sun Microsystems, would decide it’s not worth scaling because it’s not the core business, or some other. . reason.

The company plans to have 100 units in the world by the end of next year.

Image credits: Send robotics

Warehouse automation partner at Via Robotics, meanwhile, announced a $ 30 million Series C at the end of last month. Tech giants Microsoft (M12) and Qualcomm (Qualcomm Ventures LLC) led the round, bringing the California firm’s total funding to $ 59 million to date. Hitachi Ventures also joined the round. The company says it was able to grow pandemic-driven growth to a 600% revenue increase in 2020.

And just because we couldn’t do all the warehouse news this week (as tempting and easy as it is), here’s a robot from General Electric called ATVer. The diverse technology conglomerate has been field testing the autonomous robot with the US Army Military funding remains a major factor in robotics, for better or for worse.

“Our project and our partnership with the US Army have really allowed us to make some important advances in autonomous systems,” says Shiraj Sen, GE robotics expert, in a statement. “We believe that the progress made on this project will not only help accelerate the deployment of future driverless vehicle technologies; they will help foster more autonomous solutions in other industrial sectors such as energy, aviation and healthcare that people depend on every day. “

Image credits: Sarcos

Just below the wire, Sarcos this morning announced a partnership with T-Mobile that will bring 5G teleoperation to the company’s Guardian XT robot. Robotics is, of course, one of those things that is frequently thrown around when talking about the potential benefits of 5G’s low-latency connection. Honestly, it’s the kind of thing that gets displayed on stage during press events (cough Verizon), because bots are sure to please the crowd. So it’s nice to see it applied to some real systems here.

Since launch,

The T-Mobile and Sarcos The collaboration begins with the integration of 5G to develop a remote display system powered by T-Mobile’s high-bandwidth, low-latency 5G network. This allows workers, supervisors, outside experts and others, either locally or remotely, to observe the tasks the robot performs while being controlled by an operator in the field. The second phase of development is expected to include full integration of the T-Mobile 5G wireless network, enabling teleoperation of the Guardian XT robot over 5G, giving operators greater flexibility and increasing their security by allowing them to perform tasks remotely. .


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