MIT Researchers Develop Highly Efficient, Drone-Based ‘RFly’ RFID System

Researchers at MIT’s Media Lab have developed a drone-based RFID system that could vastly improve retail stock accounting.

byMarco Margaritoff|
MIT Researchers Develop Highly Efficient, Drone-Based ‘RFly’ RFID System


Researchers at MIT have developed a drone-based RFID system which would allow drones to read and identify tags from feet away in order to monitor and locate items more efficiently. This would significantly impact businesses that store mass amounts of items in warehouses - think any major retailer in the world, starting with Amazon

According to Geek, companies lose billions on unaccounted inventory each and every year due to the imperfect RFID technology. This new system, which researchers at MIT’s Media Lab call the ‘RFly’ system, allegedly has an item localization accuracy of 7.5 inches (19cm).

Professor Fadel Adib, who heads the group working on the RFly system, is highly confident that it could solve a literal tonne of problems. “By enabling drones to find and localize items and equipment, this research will provide a fundamental technological advancement for solving these problems,” Adib claims. Perhaps a visual presentation would help explain the RFly more clearly.

Video thumbnail

Post-doctorate Yunfei Ma and graduate student Nicholas Selby are only two of the many geniuses at MIT’s Media Lab responsible for RFly’s reported functionality. The system they’ve developed uses both standard radio frequency tech and RFID tags. The drone reflects a signal back to the item in question, communicating with it, and affirming its presence. The drone is continuously moving through items, taking RFID readings at various locations and times, and is apparently highly accurate.

“In experiments in the Media Lab that involved tagged objects, many of which were intentionally hidden to approximate the condition of merchandise heaped in piles on warehouse shelves, the system was able to localize the tags with 19-centimeter accuracy,” claims MIT.

According to Geek, there’s a second round of tests being performed in the warehouse of a highly successful Massachusetts retailer. We’ll make sure to check in on this team, as their project develops.