RFID drones used in oil fields have read rates close to 100%

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A study by the California Polytechnic State University found that a RFID-enabled unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) can read labels on steel drills or utility pipes with an accuracy of 95% to 100%. The one-year research project tested the technology in multiple locations, in different applications, and on different frequency RFID technologies.

These tests rely on a common feature: drones that support RFID, which sweeps RFID tags in a wide space.The solution uses RFID technology in drones for the oil and gas industry of drones, or in other industrial companies, is being developed and sold by process experts, a company founded in 2007 by Tali Freed, a professor in Cal Poly’s Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering Department, the head of the research project and the director of the PolyGAIT-RFID Research and Development Center.

Freed said the project provided good results in terms of read rate. Regardless of whether passive or active RFID tags are used, the team found that the speed and height-adjusted read rates of drones that support RFID are high, and in general, almost all tags can be accurately queried. The project lasted from March 2017 to March 2018 to determine how drones can effectively capture RFID tag readings for inventory or asset management.

In terms of inventory management, oilfields face a unique challenge, in part because of the size of the equipment, how it is stacked, and the area of some storage areas. Oil fields typically require hundreds of thousands of tubular bodies (steel pipes used in drilling operations) that are distributed over large fields and calculating their number is a time consuming process. However, manual counting is often the only tool available to site managers.

With RFID, items can be tracked as long as the reader remains within the scope of the tag item. But in a large warehouse, a fixed reader deployment is unrealistic, and carrying a handheld reader regularly in the warehouse, Freed says – even with a vehicle – would still very time consuming. The organization speculates that this may open a possible use case for drones.

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