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Swiss drones enable the zero-waste warehouse

Swiss drones enable the zero-waste warehouse

Tokyo (SCCIJ) – Verity, a young Swiss company from Zurich, has deployed a new fleet of drones primed to transform warehouse operations and support more sustainable supply chains. After beginning their life in the field of entertainment, the drones of the Swiss start-up are now improving logistics and inventory management.

Swiss drones enable the zero-waste warehouse

Verity drone in a warehouse (© Scott Gibbard / ETH Zurich)

Born in the lab

Warehouse distribution centers are a hub of activity as workers offload pallets and shift valuable, sometimes perishable, inventory from one place to the next. But at night, Verity’s drone fleet buzzes to life. Packing its lighting, software, and cameras, the Verity “night crew” navigates the floor to ceiling industrial shelves autonomously scanning barcodes and verifying digital inventory records.

Verity’s been pulling the night shift since it opened its doors in 2014. The company co-founded by Professor Raffaello D’Andrea from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETHZ) is built upon fundamental research that spun out his lab in the Institute for Dynamic Systems and Control.

Learning algorithms

“While Verity’s technology has certainly advanced beyond the lab, much of it originates with our basic research,” says Co-founder and CTO, Markus Hehn. Hehn developed learning algorithms during his doctoral work at ETH Zurich that made it possible for quadcopters to learn to fly a slalom course and play catch with a pendulum.

Today these systems enable the drones at Verity to learn how to navigate autonomously. Likewise, research from Verity Head of Product and ETH Alum Federico Augugliaro, on how to coordinate fleets of drones to carry out complex tasks such as flight assembled architecture and building a rope bridge, still influences many current aspects of Verity’s work.

Filled order books

The spinoff quickly became a global leader in autonomous indoor drone systems – proving the robustness of their technologies on the world’s stage. Verity first emerged on the live events scene as “Verity Studios”, quickly solidifying their reputation for safety and reliability. In the meantime, their warehouse automation solution was being developed in stealth mode, eventually launching in 2020.

In 2021, after successfully piloting the solution with their first two clients, they are rolling out drone fleets to the vast distribution and warehouse expanses of the Danish transport and logistics company, DSV, and in IKEA stores. Their mission – to liberate companies from the time-consuming and error prone task of conducting manual inventories. The drone fleets enable companies to reduce the costs associated with cycle counting and misplaced articles while at the same time improving the quality of their operations.

Valuable human resources too could be leveraged in ways that offer companies more of a strategic benefit. The impact of drone fleets goes far beyond inventory. The new tech primes the industry for transformation: Warehouse operations are becoming more efficient and sustainable. The order books of Verity are filling quickly, with most of its 2022 capacity already reserved.

Text: © Marianne Lucien/ETHZ (editing by SCCIJ)

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