A recent patent filing in the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) reveals Walmart is working on a delivery drone service powered by blockchain technology. The retail giant will join Amazon, Domino’s and Mercedes-Benz in pioneering the nascent niche.
Titled “Unmanned aerial delivery to secure location,” the patent application goes into detail about specific processes the company intends to deploy for full-scale automation of last-mile deliveries.
Walmart plans to make the service reliable by incorporating the blockchain into logistical aspects of the service, such as tracking and package identification. The technology, which currently underpins bitcoin and smart contract transactions, could be used to monitor ambient temperature, courier authentication and location.
The extra security layer is applicable to sensitive items, including food and medical samples. Log information of every drone delivery is stored in a database.
In a scenario wherein the company’s delivery drone service is being used, the drone would fly from a store to a set of lockers located at a secure drop-off point. Using blockchain technology, the drone would be able to find a specific locker, via automated authentication protocols.
“The technology and its application presented in Walmart’s patent application is capable of solving a critical problem faced by various e-commerce retailers concerning automation of last mile delivery of goods and supplies,” says Gautham NM, a writer at NEWSBTC, a bitcoin news service.
When it comes to blockchain applications, Walmart has been persistently pushing the limits of the technology in the field of supply chain traceability. Last year, the retail brand formed a collaboration with IBM and Beijing’s Tsinghua University to develop a blockchain-powered supply chain solution for China’s pork industry.
In the early stages of the pilot program, operations consisted of three nodes handled separately by Walmart, IBM and a supplier. At higher capacities, the program could scale up to 10 nodes, equating to billions of dollars in savings, according to an anonymous veteran supplier participating in the project.