Managing Asia

Managing Asia

Flying warehouse drones are in the works by Singapore's Infinium Robotics

The business of drones
The business of drones

A flying drone could soon take inventory in a warehouse--and possibly someone's job--as Singapore-based Infinium Robotics works to carve a niche in the drone market by developing a flying warehouse robot.

The company got its start coordinating drones for aerial displays and later attempted to apply drone technology use in food service, although this proved to be challenging. Today, Infinium focuses on providing robotics solutions in the warehouse and logistics sector.

"We are focused on indoor applications (for) very practical purposes because for outdoor applications, we have to deal with regulations. We have to deal with issues like privacy as well (but) if you fly drones indoors, you do away with all these issues," Junyang Woon, founder and CEO of Infinium Robotics, tells CNBC's "Managing Asia."

Infinium Robotics

"We are looking into fully replacing the manpower needed to do stocktaking," Woon says, "Let's say warehouse workers leave work, you press a button and the drone will do the stocktaking. When the workers come back in the morning, all the stock would be taken before they actually start work."

The former Republic of Singapore Navy officer became fascinated by drone technology after seeing how it was used in the military domain and wanted to explore how these solutions could be used in the commercial domain.

Although indoor drone applications allow users to bypass regulations, they create their fair share of challenges too.

As Infinium's warehouse drones operate indoors -- where GPS signals are weaker -- the company had to commit additional investments to develop positioning technology to improve indoor navigation.

What to watch at CES: Car tech, drones and home robots
What to watch at CES: Car tech, drones and home robots

The company's drones are currently being tested in warehouses around Singapore and Woon says they intend to roll out the solution by mid-2017.

The technology will help warehouses save on costs related to inventory that would have otherwise been written off each year. "You're talking about hundreds of millions or trillions of cost savings for this entire industry," Woon says, adding that adopting the use of drones is a "very natural step" that makes businesses more efficient.

For now, the start-up is based in its home market. Woon says Infinium will be using Singapore as a springboard to the rest of the world, due to the city-state's reputation for being a logistics and distribution hub for MNCs.

"We're trying to beat everyone," Woon says of his competitors, "And so far, we have a drone that is fully autonomous indoors in warehouse(s)."

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