Taking on Amazon's Prime Air, Walmart has patented a floating warehouse or a "gas-filled carrier aircraft" that could launch drones for delivering products across wider areas, according to a report from Bloomberg.
The patent details a blimp-style aerial transport and launch system which would carry drones to heights ranging from 500 to 1000ft and disperse them to make deliveries. The aerial vehicle dispatches drones autonomously and can even implement commands pre-programmed or wirelessly received from a remote scheduling control system.
"In a modern retail environment, there is a need to improve the customer service and/or convenience for the customer," the patent application notes. "One aspect of customer service is the availability of products. The availability of products is dependent in part on the distribution of products".
Clearly, a blimp helping courier drones reach delivery locations could ease some troubles for the retail giant, which currently relies on third party logistics companies for both land and "last-mile" shipping. "There are numerous ways to distribute and deliver products. Getting the product to a delivery location, however, can cause undesirable delays, can add cost and reduce revenue".
To recall, this is not the first time we're seeing such technology. Amazon, Walmart's biggest competitor, patented a similar aerial vehicle in April 2016 in order to build on its Prime Air delivery ambitions.
Amazon and Walmart have been overhauling their delivery mechanisms, but for now, neither of the two giants has implemented the drone dispatching technology. There's no word on when they plan to do that, but if done, the technology could offer some real advantages (less cost, time) to serve wider distribution areas.