The Eyesee autonomously scans and photographs each shelf of a bay before moving to the next one, and will move out of the way if a forklift drives past. Image: Hardis

France: Eyesee c-drone by Hardis automates warehouse inventories for Volvo, L’Oréal, Renault

Equipment & systems Logistics • freight • delivery

France’s Hardis Group is preparing to industrialize its Eyesee inventory c-drone later this year following successful projects for Volvo, L’Oréal, and Renault.

The Eyesee, developed by Hardis over three years with partner Squadrone System for safe and reliable automated inventory in warehouses and factories, is a system consisting of a 1.8 kg (4 lb) EPP foam body quadcopter, a tablet app for data transfer, and a suite of cloud applications for data processing. Clients including Renault Trucks (a unit of Volvo AB) [video] and L’Oréal’s Cosmétique Active International division (brands La Roche-Posay, Vichy, Sanoflore, Roger & Gallet, SkinCeuticals, CeraVe) [video] have reported spectacular gains in productivity, on the order of three to ten times faster than traditional inventory inspection with boom lifts, which is time-consuming and dangerous. According to Hardis, some clients are performing inventory more often as a result. Discussions are underway with L’Oréal for widescale deployment at other logistics sites. Guillaume Bosselin, director of L’Oréal’s CAI international logistics center at Creuzier le Neuf near the town of Vichy, is enthusiastic, saying:

This new solution means we can avoid closing the center for three days during our annual inventory and will enable us to assure better service to our clients during this period, more safely.

An inventory manager starts by extracting the book inventory list or theoretical stock situation from the site’s warehouse management system (WMS) and loading it into the tablet app. The Eyesee is placed on the floor facing stock to be counted and delimiting transmitters are set at each end of the warehouse aisle; these help the drone with positioning within the flight area. The drone is launched from the tablet app with a button tap, but not piloted; it autonomously and methodically scans the barcodes and photographs the contents of each pallet, also indicating empty shelves; the tablet app is updated via a direct wifi link, with any abnormal conditions signalled to the manager. The physical stock situation is then uploaded to the site’s WMS, for example Hardis’ Reflex WMS or Manhattan Associates’ Warehouse Management. The photo of each rack shelf can also be linked to, for remote staff to look at if necessary.

Hardis says the guiding philosophy of the Eyesee system is simplicity and safety for logistics workers, many of whom provided feedback during the design of the drone and software. The c-drone’s EPP (expanded polypropylene) foam body encloses the rotors, keeps the 2ft (63cm) square airframe light, and is rounded at the edges. The Eyesee has sense and avoid capability and bright lights for clear photos in warehouses. Flight time is 18-20 minutes per battery; the system is delivered with six batteries. The firm says clients generally place the tablet, battery charger and drone case on a wheeled cart. The drone is programmed to land if the link with the tablet fails, for example if the tablet’s battery runs down, or if the tablet is broken or missing. Initial mapping setup of a warehouse takes one or two days. The suite of cloud applications offers warehouse mapping, data processing, reporting, and drone fleet management. Pricing was not communicated.