Walmart Plotting its Own Drone Delivery With Blockchain Support

June 2, 2017         By: Steven Anderson

That rumble you feel is a seismic shift in retailing as Walmart considers delivery, using the same kind of aerial drone that Amazon has been contemplating for years. Yet Walmart is taking this even farther than normal, incorporating blockchain technology into the mix.

Blockchain technology is part of what keeps bitcoin a going concern, and Walmart’s use of it might well shake retail to its core.

This is based on a patent application Walmart took out some time ago, which focused on using blockchain systems in regard to location tracking and package identification. It’s also potentially useful for things like location finding, courier authentication, and even measuring ambient temperature.

Walmart has been frantically pursuing a setup like  this for some time, even going so far as to partner with IBM and Tsinghua University in China for a blockchain-driven supply chain operation to be used in China’s pork industry. Early tests allowed three nodes to be used, and reports say this could go up to 10 nodes, potentially making for billions in savings.

Walmart has a significant advantage here that Amazon does not: infrastructure. While Amazon would pretty much have to build and stock warehouses all over the country to launch a drone delivery system, Walmart already has such warehouses in place.

They’re called “stores”. Very few people don’t live close to a Walmart; a 2013 study suggested that 90 percent of Americans live within 15 minutes’ drive of a Walmart, which means drones would have a wide open field to reach just about everywhere.

If Walmart were to license Amazon’s parachute technology, or just build its own, the end result would likely give Walmart the first edge in the field. It likely wouldn’t be hard for Walmart to include things like Subway delivery—many Walmarts have Subway restaurants built in—or even other kinds of food for delivery either.

Of course, this only goes so far without the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) approval, especially with the current rules in place requiring drones to be kept in a constant line of sight with their pilots. With so many firms eager to get in, and a new Presidential administration likely very pro-business, the end result could be drones delivering just about everything in short order.