Walmart has partnered with Amazon to file a patent for a floating warehouse, Bloomberg reported. The two mega retailers have come together to develop a flying drone that would make deliveries directly to customers’ doors.
According to Bloomberg, the drone would have multiple launching pads and operate independently or by a remote pilot. It would be able to fly between 500 and 1,000 feet.
Competitors no more?
The retailers’ unification shows their understanding of each other’s business model. Recently, Walmart ramped up their e-commerce push by offering free two-day shipping. Amazon, on the other hand, has recently purchased Whole Foods and began looking at opening up brick and mortar stores.
The drone warehouse would allow the retailers to lower the cost of fulfilling online orders. The most expensive aspect of shipping, from a retailers’ point of view, comes the “last mile.” They can include a customer’s order in an inventory order that’s already going to the retail store, which saves on shipping. When they have to ship directly to a customer, it’s more time-consuming and costly, and the main reason large retailers allow customers to pick up items at their store for free.
“The core challenge of traffic and driving distance in any major city or in a very rural location can be helped by a floating warehouse,” Brandon Fletcher, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein, told Bloomberg. “Movable warehouses are a really nice idea because any flexible part of a logistics system allows it to be more efficient when demand varies wildly. The e-commerce world suffers from highly variable demand and more creative solutions are needed.”
Having the unmanned drones also means large box store retailers could service a larger distribution area, compared to traditional warehouses. As it currently stands, they are limited to driving distances of their warehouses. A fleet of drones would travel in a larger blimp. The blimp would pull into a town and release the drones that would make individual deliveries, Bloomberg reported.
Walmart has filed numerous patents over the last few years, focusing on the web development side of their business, something that upped their competition with Target, Bloomberg reported in May.
The retailer has also filed patents for in-store drones that would bring merchandise from the stock room to the floor.