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Walmart and the race for drone delivery

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Walmart is beginning testing on its new drone delivery service in New York. By renting a 28,000 square foot hanger, it can start research and perform tests on its drone and conduct test flights.

Test flights will go from one designated spot to another, and flight hours would include 12 flight days a month for 6 hours per day.

Walmart is seeking to patent a system that uses blockchain technology to track packages delivered by unmanned drones. The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) published the application, Unmanned Aerial Delivery to Secure Location on 25th May.

So, could Walmart overtake Amazon in the battle of the drones? The answer in the long term is yes! Although nowhere as big a global giant as Amazon, Walmart can utilise its large network of stores for drone delivery. Amazon will have to rely on customers living near their drone fulfilment centres, which are quite spread out. A drones range is quite small, and a bigger share of customers live close to the stores.

About 49% of Weather Company app users who visited a US Walmart location during Q1 2017 live within six miles of a Walmart store, a deliverable range for a drone. And 15.1% of purchases at Walmart are under $10, according to Perfect Price. Most of these purchases are likely light enough to deliver by drone. *

Amazon reports that 44% of Americans live within 20 miles of one of its fulfilment centres — but that’s too far for today’s drones. In fact, the drones Amazon is testing in the UK only have a range of 15 miles round-trip. So Amazon will need to either build more fulfilment centres, or come up with another strategy, in order to fully embrace drone delivery. *

As we have discussed before, the long term use of drones is something that is not going to be happening in the near future, and there are a lot of processes and regulations to wade though before the dream becomes a reality for these delivery giants. First past the post in terms of patents and testing would put out a strong message to competitors in the race to become the biggest global delivery service.

•Source : Business Insider UK

Amazon have filed for a patent for multi level fulfilment centres that would accommodate the take off and landing of drones in dense urban settings.

This would allow them to move away from single story warehouses that temporality store packages before they are shipped to the customer. They are also normally situated outside urban areas and are not convenient for deliveries to majorly populated cities. The beehive shape of the centres means that drones can move to a higher location, which saves the drone power because it takes energy to ascend to cruising altitude, according to the patent. The high takeoff platform will also take the constant “whirring” sound of drones away from street level, somewhat reducing noise pollution for pedestrians, the patent said.

The company would stock the beehives’ shelves the old-fashioned way — that is, by arranging freight delivery via trucks, rail or ships. Then, human personnel and robotic devices would unload and then later package orders, according to Amazon. Customers could also collect their package from the centre if they preferred. After an order is packaged, an “internal transport robot” — which could be a robot, elevator, conveyer belt or some sort of lifting mechanism. The towers could accept shipments from traditional trucks — or even boats if located close enough to a body of water, the application states.

Obviously this is only a patent, and Amazon are not about to start building their outlandish ideas, but it shows that they are trying to move with the times and come up with innovative ideas that benefit the customer. It remains to be seen whether people will be happy to live near enormous beehive domes with drones constantly coming in and out, noise pollution alone could be a massive issue, but Amazon seem as keen as ever to monopolise the delivery market in as many ways as possible.

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