A fly on the Warehouse Wall

By Gian Schiava

April 2024

Drones in Storage and Logistics

Drones, or UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), are increasingly used for a wide variety of applications, such as firefighting, filming and photography, and military tasks. Now they are also making their entrance in the world of storage and logistics. In a time when 24-hour delivery has become the norm, companies are looking for new solutions that can speed up shipments. In this article, Gian Schiava explores their usage and applications, together with one of the leading logistics drone developers in Europe, EYESEE.

We meet up with Clément Roulet, the company’s VP Marketing. He is one of the co-founders of this Grenoble, France-based start-up. Back in 2015, it was recognised that drones could play a big role in keeping warehouse inventory up to date, which was a large concern for many companies. He teamed up with three additional founding partners, and other experts like WMS (Warehouse Management System) supplier Hardis, to start the development of an inventory drone.


Several patents, new navigation systems and prototypes later, the first projects were delivered and in 2022 EYESEE became an official company.

Accuracy is everything

Today, drones within the warehouse are mainly used for inventory accuracy. The drone itself is an autonomous flying device measuring about 50 x 50 cm, equipped with common Zebra scanners for reading labels with 1D (bar) or 2D (QR) codes. They also feature an HD camera and obstacle avoidance technologies to guarantee the safety of warehouse operators.


Each drone comes in a carrying box with seven batteries.

The drone comes in a complete carrying box along with seven batteries. One battery lasts about 20 minutes. The hardware is complemented by the EYESEE App, a tablet application for supervision of mission execution, real-time video feedback, security mechanisms and so on. Software for mapping, data processing, reporting and drone fleet management completes the package. All software has been developed in-house.

The inventory process is surprisingly simple. Customers need only one operator to carry it out. This person receives both online and onsite training beforehand. When ready to begin the inventory, he or she chooses several aisles which are shut temporarily. The remainder of the warehouse continues with operations as usual.

Today, drones within the warehouse are mainly used for inventory accuracy.

Unlike controlling drones in filming, for example, the operator has no need for a joystick and doesn’t have to navigate. Most of the work has been done before the flying starts. A complete digital twin of the warehouse has been created, complete with all the measurements, routings, equipment and inventory. Just two beacons are placed at either side of the aisle. No physical adaptation or installation is needed in the warehouse! Then, the operator assigns the ‘missions’ (tasks) to the drone, via the app, and the device begins to fly and register.

drone 7-sm

The operator simply assigns a ‘mission’ and the drone does the rest.

In one hour, a drone can scan up to 500 pallet positions. Traditionally, with people and vehicles, it’s normal to check about 60 pallet positions per hour. The drone determines whether there is a pallet present and, if so, it scans the pallet’s data label. This is compared with the data from the WMS.

drone 5-sm

Eyes in the sky - equipped with an HD camera and obstacle avoidance technologie.

In this way, discrepancies are detected. In a typical warehouse, data accuracy is between 95 and 99%. That 1% discrepancy may sound low, but in a warehouse with 25,000 pallet positions it would mean that in 250 cases the WMS data would have to be corrected.

Typical clients are large companies with even larger pallet warehouses, like 3PL (third-party logistics) providers. Deploying drones means the reliability of the warehouse stock data becomes much better. The other advantage is the enormous amount of time that’s saved, each year, compared to traditional inventory controls.

Drones are available for straight purchase, long-term rental or even as IaaS (Inventory as a Service). IaaS is a turnkey solution offering the possibility of paying for a warehouse inventory control service.


Onboard scanners can read bar and QR codes.

Other applications

Besides inventory control, drones can also be used for visual inspection. In that application, the operator checks for pallet damage, damaged goods, incorrectly and unsafely positioned pallets, and more. This is particularly helpful in warehouses with very high racking. To date, drones have been applied mainly in pallet racking applications, and not so much in narrow-aisle shelving or advanced goods-to-person systems.

Outside the warehouse, there is much interest in use of drones as a delivery tool. The potential gains include cost reduction, faster deliveries, less road transport and, as a result, less air pollution. Companies such as UPS, Amazon and Google Wing are currently developing order delivery projects. To use this service, customers must install an application on their mobile phone, which can track the exact location of the drone and determine a collection point. For now, this application is still at an experimental stage, as there are still many hurdles (legislation, weather conditions, safety) to overcome.

Whatever happens, the technology will continue to improve, which will facilitate drone adoption even further. As Clément Roulet points out: “The rapid inventory process, along with its simplicity, short ROI time and almost instant results, make it very easy to decide whether or not to use drones. In our case, as soon as warehouse managers are made aware of the possibilities, it is only a matter of time before we are working together.”

"Drones may have just arrived in the warehouse, but they are here to stay!”

Clément Roulet.

Customer Story

The warehouse in Creuzier-le-Neuf, France, of beauty brand L’Oréal Cosmétique Active manages six of the Group’s different brands. With a capacity of 25,000 pallets and 26,300 m² of surface area, the logistics centre receives and ships more than 125,000 pallets per year.

L’Oréal was looking for a more efficient and time-saving inventory solution. Before choosing EYESEE, the warehouse carried out its inventory each year using a dozen scissor-lifts and the whole(!) staff for three full days.

Today, the drone solution is used year-round. L’Oréal has switched to cycle count inventory, which no longer requires business interruptions. The entire stock is inventoried in about ten weeks, which allows checking of each location four times a year compared to one time in the manual process. Involvement of staff is minimal.

EYESEE drones have enabled the management to obtain more accurate and reliable inventory data and to execute the inventory process without interrupting the site’s activities. Moreover, ROI was obtained in less than a year.

Note: EYESEE drones can be seen in different customer sites, but interested parties can also visit the Log!Ville innovation centre in Antwerp, Belgium, where the latest supply chain technologies, including EYESEE solutions, can be appreciated.