The cargo handling division of British Airways, International Airlines Cargo (IAG Cargo) says it has conducted a trial of autonomous drone technology at a warehouse in the Spanish capital of Madrid.

IAG Cargo, in an announcement, said the technology had been “designed around the automation of freight checks”. Thus, the technology will help improve the efficiency and reliability of its operations. IAG Cargo employs over 2,400 people, the business that serves more than 350 destinations globally.

They conducted the trial using technology developed by a drone software start-up FlytBase. The trials were undertaken after spending an average of 6,500 hours each year recording the barcodes and location data of freight across their individual warehouses. A total of two trials have been completed so far. The FlytBase developed technology completes tasks allowing the drones to detect and read air waybills accurately and identify empty slot locations in the warehouse. An air waybill is a crucial document that contains key pieces of information related to a shipment. Furthermore, the drone automatically returns to the charging dock.

Autonomous drone technology

Autonomous drone technology now a reality

Slowly and gradually as technology develops, the applications for drones are becoming increasingly diverse. Autonomous drones have already been used to deliver diabetics medication to a location off the west coast of Ireland, in September. The contents of the delivery were insulin and glucagon, while the drone also collected a patient’s blood sample.

Carly Morris, Head of Innovation, IAG Cargo, commented: “We are continuously looking for solutions to increase the efficiency and accuracy of our logistical operations, so we are delighted that the trials with FlytBase have been successful so far.”

“Watching our autonomous drone take off, navigate our warehouse, collect valuable location and barcode data, and then return itself to an origin point for self-charging is an incredible sight, and shows the huge potential drones have in the aviation and logistics sectors.”

“This trial is only one aspect of IAG Cargo’s continuous program of innovation and investment which changes how logistics works, challenges the status quo and ensures our customers receive the best possible service. We have more exciting new technology tests and trials in 2020 that will help change the way our industry approaches some age-old problems.”

There will be a continuation of testing certain elements of the drone operation early next year in order to make improvements on what has already been achieved.