The year is 2020. A group of warehouse workers are locking up for the weekend. As the lights go off, a swarm of buzzing drones fly into the darkness. Over the coming days, they will zoom up and down the aisles, updating the inventory for when their human colleagues return on Monday morning
Thinking about drones and logistics, the first image that comes to mind is probably an army of Amazon drones delivering pizza, flowers, apparel and gadgets. The reality looks a bit less sci-fi but all so more practical. Interestingly, indoor drones are where the next big innovation is going to happen
Jasper Pons is the Co-Founder of DroneScan, a Durban based startup that is using drones to scan barcoded items in warehouses. CNN recently predicted that Dronescan will revolutionise working lives worldwide! It allows a drone operator to count as much stock in a warehouse in two days as a team of 80 people with handheld scanners. Pons, who some rate is the Elon Musk of Durban, is a serial entrepreneur that also owns a software company and many other companies previously
He qualified with an Electronic Engineering degree from The University of Natal in 1991. In 1994 he started a software development company call Code Complete. In 2010 he started a Warrehhouse Mangement and Logstics company called ScanMan. In 2013 he founded DroneScan with his co-founder Craig Leppan
The idea for Drone Scan came after Pons started using a homemade drone to map fishing sites and film a canoe race on the Msunduzi river near Pietermaritzburg, in South Africa "I thought, if this thing can lift a camera it can lift a barcode scanner up in a warehouse," says Pons.Having worked with warehouse software in the past, the drone was a logical step towards speeding up data collection for Pons.
At the same Pons visited a manager of a large warehouse and discovered that a huge amount of man hours – as well as heavy machinery such as forklifts – were required just to take inventory of stock which changed daily. And so he had an idea: what if drones were used to scan inventory in warehouses? This was how DroneScan was born, a start-up offering a robotic scanning device as a solution to the time-consuming task of warehouse stocktaking.
The startup is already rolling out their product to Nestle internationally, completed an integration with SAP and have interest from DHL to perform their stock counts on large warehouses. The technology has potential to improve efficiency for large delivery giants such as Amazon. "The drone will help make their system more accurate which means less time spent looking for stuff when it's needed,"
The Drone Scan is attached to a DJI Matrice, which -- as opposed to more "easy on the eyes" consumer products -- is designed for commercial use and can be customized and controlled externally.
Jasper Pons says this technology will save large companies millions of dollars every month by cutting man hours during stock-takes. "Continuous inventory is almost a dream within warehouse logistics, eventually you will have the drones working away in the warehouses at night when everybody is asleep."
"The best part of being an entrepreneur over an employee I would have to say is definitely afternoon sleeps! I think the biggest mistake was attempting to do everything ourselves in the beginning. So I have learnt to stick to our core focus and what we are good at, and then include other people and build an ecosystem around ourselves.
Pons is the main brain behind this tech, which he used his own funds to build, but was recently lucky enough to get investment funding from South Africa’s Support Programme for Industrial Innovation. Dronescane was recently exclusively selected among 13 South African tech start-ups with global growth potential.
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