Retail giant Walmart, currently in the process of taking over e-commerce major Flipkart, has applied for an Indian patent for drones that could be pressed into service for delivery of goods.
The world’s largest brick-and-mortar retailer filed an application on September 24 with the Indian patent office, seeking a patent for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) or commonly known as drones and methods of delivery using the remote-controlled ‘flying machines’. The application was published in the patent journal on September 29.
Walmart, in the patent application, said in a modern retail environment, there is a need to improve the customer service and one aspect of that is delivery of products.
The company said getting the product to a delivery location, however, can cause undesirable delays, add cost and reduce revenue. To overcome the shortcomings, the ‘invention’ for which patent protection is being sought, provides systems and methods to enable both the package delivery and interaction with customers.
Interestingly, Walmart’s rival Amazon had in June 2017 filed an application seeking an Indian patent for an advanced automated aerial vehicle or drone, which will have increased safety features to navigate them through residential areas for the purpose of delivery of packets.
According to reports, on the global front, Amazon has been issued a patent for delivery drones that can react to humans on the ground. While Amazon is focused on the skies, many of the patents applied for by Walmart bring the drone technology into stores. Walmart has also applied for a patent that tracks shoppers through wearable technology.
Back home, with the DGCA recently announcing its policy for drones, the commercial use of the ‘unmanned aircraft’ in India has been clearly defined and that will act as template for the likes of Walmart and Amazon in deployment of drones for the purpose of delivery, sources said.
The new drone policy allows personal or commercial use of drones from December this year but with a slew of riders.
Though the stipulation that drone can be flown only within the line of sight of the person using it puts hindrance in the use drone for delivery of goods at the moment, the government had assured that it would prepare guidelines in future for allowing use of drones even beyond the line of sight.
According to a patent document filed by Walmart, the proposed ‘product delivery system’ may include multiple UAS.
The UAS are also configured to carry packages and deliver to a delivery location. Often, a customer at the delivery location may be required to be at the delivery location for the process to commence and complete.