Aerial drone systems developed by MIT researchers enable small, safe, aerial drones to read RFID tags from tens of meters away while identifying the tags’ locations with an average error of about 19 centimeters. The only aerial drones safe enough to fly within close range of humans are small, lightweight drones with plastic rotors that will not cause injuries in the event of a collision. But such drones are too small to carry RFID readers with a range of more than a few centimeters. The researchers met this challenge by using the drones to relay signals emitted by a standard RFID reader. This also meant that drones could be deployed in conjunction with existing RFID inventory systems, without the need for new tags, readers, or reader software. The MIT researchers describe their system, called RFly, in a paper they presented at the annual conference of the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Data Communications. The researchers envision that the system could be used in large warehouses for both continuous monitoring, to prevent inventory mismatches, and location of individual items, so that employees can rapidly and reliably meet customer requests.