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Walmart in patent filing for in-store drones


The nation’s largest retailer is ready to put a whole new spin on merchandise fulfillment.

Speed is the name of the game in retail these days, in store and online.

Looking to get merchandise into shoppers’ hands faster, Walmart was granted a patent on March 16, that would allow the chain to use drones to shuttle merchandise between departments and dedicated delivery loca-tions within its stores, Fortune reported.

According to a United States patent application publication, the drone specifically drone will dispatch inventory located in a store, secure the item via nets or hooks, and then carry the merchandise to a delivery area located within the retail store,

The drone will be used when there are “not always enough employees available to assist customers in as timely a manner as the customer might wish,” the document reported.

For example, it is not uncommon for a shopper to wait for an associate to retrieve an item that could be located in restricted part of the store, such as the back room. “When there is not an associate immediately available to deliver that item, the customer experiences delay, and that in turn, reduces customer satisfaction,” the filing summarized.

Each store would have a computer system, or a small scale automated air traffic controller, that would dispatch drones and plot flight paths. Sen-sors on the drones would help them avoid obstacles. In fact, the retailer envisions the airborne gadgets maneuvering over store aisles, to avoid in-terfering with shoppers, Fortune reported.

While the patent gives Walmart the green light to launch a drone project, the retailer has not yet confirmed any specific plans.

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