Nippon Express begins demonstration testing of drone use inside warehouses

September 7, 2017

A world first!*1 Semi-autonomous drone in a non-GPS environment reads Chameleon Code*2

Nippon Express Co., Ltd. (Mitsuru Saito, President) teamed up with Canon Marketing Japan Inc. (Masahiro Sakata, President) and Prodrone Co., Ltd. (Masakazu Kono, President) to conduct a test on the utilization of drones for warehouse inventory control and logistics facility security in Nippon Express' Tokyo C-NEX Warehouse on Thursday, August 24.

  • Drone flying semi-autonomously, detecting its position relative to the floor and to cargo by laser on a test course featuring pallets made up to look like cargo

  • While maintaining a set distance from odd-shaped cargo, drones identify Chameleon Codes with an onboard reader


This demonstration test used the latest model of drone to verify the current level of technology and to identify issues to be addressed in practically applying this technology, with the intent of studying the utilization of drones for logistics-related operations in non-GPS environments such as warehouses and distribution facilities.

Description of test

  • Semi-autonomous flight test using a set designed to resemble a warehouse (to verify certain semi-autonomous flight functions for maintaining pre-determined altitude and distance from cargo)
  • In-flight Chameleon Code reading test
  • Video recording test envisioning security operations using ultrasensitive multi-purpose cameras


  • The test confirmed that the drone could fly semi-autonomously while maintaining a pre-determined altitude and distance from cargo in a non-GPS environment
  • The test confirmed that some Chameleon Codes could be read by a camera mounted on a flying drone
  • The test confirmed that the drone could use ultrasensitive multi-purpose cameras to detect target objects inside a dimly-lit logistics facility

Future issues

  • Achieving fully-autonomous flight whereby the drone can also move backward and forward autonomously
  • Developing camera and drone technology to improve precision in reading Chameleon Codes, etc.

Basic information on drone used in flight test

  • Distance between motor shafts: 1,058mm
  • Drone weight: 4.6kg (including battery)
  • Payload: 3.5kg

Nippon Express will continue cooperating with relevant parties in logistics engineering R&D to leverage drones' flight capabilities in putting drones to use in other scenarios that make use of their abilities to carry, see, search, examine and monitor.

  • A world-first test of a drone in semi-autonomous flight within a warehouse reading Chameleon Codes from close distances
  • Chameleon Code: a color bar code that enables precise high-speed recognition of multiple color codes using cyan, magenta, yellow and black

Inquiries on this matter should be directed to

Contact Mr. Jin or Mr. Fukuda
Public Relations & Advertising Division Nippon Express Co., Ltd.
TEL 03-6251-1454


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