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RFID, AIDC, and IoT News: Is RFID Key to Drone Delivery Success?


How Is a Drone Supposed to Verify it is Dropping a Delivery at the Correct Address?


Nov. 28, 2016
SCDigest Editorial Staff

With all the news about the looming brave new world of drone deliveries - maybe someday even in the US if the FAA ever relaxes its rules that basically make drone deliveries illegal for now - rarely is one key question asked or answered: how does the drone know  for sure it is at the right house?

Supply Chain Digest Says...

SCDigest is not sold on the more sophisticated system just yet, but using RFID to verify a drone is delivering to the correct address - that just makes sense.

What do you say?

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The mailman and the UPS driver occasionally deliver the mail or a package to the wrong house, right? How should a drone confirm it is dropping off the parcel or maybe even a Domino's pizza to the right consumer?

Drones will have a GPS system on-board to get the vehicle close to the right location, but GPS is not reliable enough to ensure it drops off the goods at the right home, especially in a neighborhood crowded with houses.

Some think cameras might be the answer, but reading a home's address - located in many different locations, depending on the house, - would be a challenge even in daylight hours, let alone at night. Addresses are often painted on to curbs, where they quickly become barely legible.

Could a drone camera identify a house by comparing its image to say the one on Google's street view application? Some of the time maybe, but Google only updates the images occasionally - for example say after a homeowner has changed the paint color from white to brown.

The likely best answer, says Columbus State [Georgia] University computer scientist Lydia Ray, is a system based on RFID. Ray recently presented the idea - which she dubbed ADDSMART (Address Digitization and Smart Mailbox) - at the IEEE Ubiquitous Computing, Electronics, and Mobile Communication Conference in New York City.

The idea is very simple, Ray says. Drones in the future will have an RFID reader, and the home an RFID tag - perhaps attached to a mailbox - that uniquely identifies that home. That would seem practical and logical enough. The drone would use GPS to navigate close to an address and then confirm that the address is correct by verifying the RFID tag.

But Ray envisions an even more sophisticated approach.

For example, an RFID-reader-equipped system could store a list of "safe" RFID tags whose possessors - such as a delivery company - would be able to pass by a home or open the mailbox unimpeded.

Instead of a home surveillance system continuously checking for intruders, a video camera could save energy by starting to record only when an unrecognized vehicle or person passes the mailbox. The mailbox could also unlock automatically when authorized users - such as a homeowner or mail carrier - arrive.

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"I have always been fascinated by the tremendous potential of sensors and RFID technology for creating different types of products that can provide a wide variety of services," says Ray. "I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to implement one of my ideas."

While testing has shown there are some challenges with some aspects of the idea, the idea has real promise, Ray believes.

The video below shows the basics of a smart mailbox, in which a postal workers has an RFID-based “key” that opens the mailbox for a delivery, which then triggers an email alert to the home owner.


Smart Mailbox Demo from Columbus State University



SCDigest is not sold on the more sophisticated system just yet, but using RFID to verify a drone is delivering to the correct address - that just makes sense.

Does RFID sound like the best approac for verifying drone deliveries? Why or why not? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback button below.

Your Comments/Feedback

Oliver Daniel

Director, Dernier Techpro Pvt Ltd
Posted on: Nov, 29 2016
The video in the above posts shows short range RFID system. However in case of Drones, long range UHF with ideal read range of 10-12 meters can be used. All the users who are ready to accept Drone deliveries will have a UHF tags (these can be tagged on special lamp posts with 3-4 meters height), having their unique ID and the drone can have the reader, thus there will be a high level of accuracy in the delivery.



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