Technology

Moving packages inside warehouses with AI-powered high-speed robots

The Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics is developing a new generation of automated guided vehicles dubbed 'LoadRunners'.   | Photo Credit: Fraunhofer IML

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A growth in e-commerce means more number of warehouses that store and pack large quantities of inventories. To move these boxes in and around these units, robots are increasingly being used.

The latest in that line of bots is the artificial intelligence (AI)-powered automated guided vehicles, dubbed ‘LoadRunners’. They can sort large-sized packages and move them as fast as roughly a kilometre in less than two minutes.

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“These vehicles can accelerate like a sports car and are pioneers for a whole new performance class,” Michael ten Hompel, executive director of Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics (IML), said in a release, and added, that LoadRunner is a “central piece in the mosaic of tomorrow’s logistics.”

Fraunhofer IML researchers developed LoadRunners as a swarm of drones, with each one picking cues from its neighbours’ behaviour. Through this affinity, they continuously adapt flight direction and speed to match other drones’ trajectory.

The interaction between an individual drone's decision with its cohort builds swarm intelligence, removing the need for central coordination. Also, the swarm uses simulation-based AI to understand and move around.

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The robots are equipped with a ground camera on board that captures 400 images per second of the floor surface for its orientation. These bots can also help determine accurate location even when travelling at high speeds in close formations.

They are powered by four electric motors, and have a sharp braking system so that the payload from the robot slides onto the delivery platform once it reaches its destination.

The robot can move and sort parcels weighing up to 30 kilograms. It can also haul up to four passive trailers. Fraunhofer IML put the LoadRunner’s parcel-sorting powers to the test which revealed about 60 vehicles can process 13,000 parcels per hour, the release noted.

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According to Fraunhofer IML, future LoadRunners will be able to communicate securely via 5G and independently transact pay-per-use contracts via blockchain. The team is also working on an outdoor version.

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Printable version | Apr 15, 2021 4:30:20 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/technology/moving-packages-inside-warehouses-with-ai-powered-high-speed-robots/article34025946.ece

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