German car manufacturer, Audi, is employing a specially developed drone system to locate vehicles that are ready for dispatch at the company’s Neckarsulm site, reports automativeworld.com.
The drone autonomously flies over the vehicle dispatch area at the site using GPS and RFID (radio frequency identification) technology to identify and then save the exact position of all vehicles it flew over. This assists Audi employees to plan the necessary steps from completion of the cars to customer dispatch.
Many different Audi models roll off the lines at the Neckarsulm site every day including the A4 Sedan, the A5 Cabriolet, the Audi A6, A7, and A8. As many different cars are built there, the site is one of the most complex in the Volkswagen Group. This makes precise order planning especially challenging.
Steffen Conrad, project manager in the area of Innovation Management at the Neckarsulm site, explained, “The fast location of the vehicles is a further stepping stone on the path to digital production. The drone provides support from a completely new perspective.” Adding, “We will now share our experiences with other Audi sites and within the VW Group.”
The drone technology used is based around the RFID chip with the associated vehicle identification number that each Audi receives in the body shop alongside a specially developed hexacopter, a drone with six propellers that flies over the vehicle dispatch areas on predefined routes at a height of around ten metres and determines the exact position of where each car is parked.
The drone uses an RFID reader to read out every vehicle and saves the GPS position identified. As soon as the craft has landed, the data is transmitted automatically to a database via Wi-Fi. After the flight, the result is then displayed on a digital map for the employees.
The drone takes off, flies, and lands in a completely autonomous manner. The trained Audi employees start and monitor the flight from a laptop or tablet. In the event of an emergency, they can use a remote control to intervene in the otherwise fully automatic operation. Four employees have already been trained on how to use such drones. As part of this training, they also obtained a drone licence.
Before each flight, the drone receives the weather conditions around the Neckarsulm site automatically. If the wind is too strong or gusty or there is too much rainfall, the drone will not take off. In addition, the software checks the battery level and battery temperature before each mission.
The pilot project is currently being transferred to permanent series of trials, so operators at the Neckarsulm site will gain further experience. It is probable that drones will be used to locate vehicles at other Audi sites in the future.
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