For retailers, empty or incorrectly stocked shelves come with a high price tag. New startup Pensa thinks drones can help, giving close-to-real-time updates on in-store inventory to both retailers and brands. It’s a lightweight alternative to the armies of cameras that track a customer’s every move in Amazon Go convenience stores.
The Pensa Systems drone can fly around a store and examine items on both normal shelves and coolers, comparing what’s actually in the store to planograms — a retailer’s map of what things should look like.
Pensa worked with Anheuser-Busch InBev on a pilot program that focused on easy setup and integration with existing retail locations, minimizing the work required to begin getting data. At a store in Montreal, Pensa was able to collect hourly and daily data on out-of-stocks and share-of-shelf within the beer section, recording a 98-percent success rate on out-of-stock detection over 200 test flights.
The rotor cages and object avoidance systems keep the spinning blades away from customers.
Andrew Green, Global Director of Innovation at AB InBev — the world’s largest brewer — said in a press release that the company was “enthusiastic” about Pensa’s approach and that the company plans to continue testing it. With manpower-intensive manual stock-level checks running hours behind the drone-powered alternative, retailers could find appeal in the aeronautical solution.