High-resolution images from drones can offer a different perspective on manufacturing operations, as demonstrated on screen in a Caterpillar facility. A DJI Inspire drone rests on the tabletop. (Ryan Gehm photo)

Cat explores drones inside factories

At a recent year-end press briefing, Caterpillar not only detailed new iron but also some of its “digital” activities, such as augmented reality in the cab and drones at the worksite. Caterpillar has been working with Redbird the past year to provide drone data analytics for customers at construction and excavation sites, and now Caterpillar is exploring the use of drones inside of its own facilities.

“There’s a lot of different groups around Caterpillar that are interested in using drone technology,” said Todd Crawford, senior engineer at Caterpillar Innovation & Digital. “We help them to get up and running, train those using it, and monitor [activities].”

Drone technology is being examined for indoor use in a variety of different applications and locations, according to Caterpillar. Site security and monitoring is one possibility. To improve workforce safety, drones could be used to inspect manufacturing equipment and operations in otherwise hard-to-access places.

One Caterpillar project, in its early stages, is employing drones to perform inventory audits for distribution centers. In this application, drones would be able to audit all locations (rather than random selection by employees) in a fraction of the time it currently takes.

No further details could be provided, but Caterpillar promised more news in this area in the future.

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