Walmart’s recent patent application seems like something out of a 1959 issue of Popular Mechanics. Who would conjour up a mixture of last century tech to fill modern supply chain demands? Turns out it may be Walmart who mixes and matches blimps, drones, mechanized warehousing, and wireless communication to bring near-instant delivery to the masses and do better than Amazon’s Prime 2 day delivery service.
Here’s what Bloomberg reports about the patent filing:
“The blimp-style machine would fly at heights between 500 feet and 1,000 feet (as much as 305 meters), contain multiple launching bays, and be operated autonomously or by a remote human pilot. Amazon was granted a patent for a similar vessel in April 2016.”
An illustration from Walmart's patent application for a gas-filled aerial transport and launch system.
(source: United States Patent and Trademaark Office)
But Walmart isn’t joking. It’s facing competition from Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods that give it physical footprints in more than 450 locations across the US. And it’s already lowered prices on many of what’s often been termed “Whole Paycheck” items to make shopping there more in line with its budget targeting competitors like Walmart.
Is it possible to deliver products from floating warehouses using autonomous flying drones? Assuming the company can navigate the technical and regulatory hurdles (there are plenty of those) we may be seeing this new kind of delivery vehicle floating over our neighborhoods soon.
Or maybe not. One thing is certain - There are plenty of ideas floating around about how to improve supply chain delivery. What are your ideas?