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Walmart Filed Almost Twice as Many Drone Patents as Amazon in the Past Year

Judging by the sheer number of new drone patents filed by Walmart in the past year, the retailer may be giving Amazon a run for its money in the pursuit of the autonomous last mile.

According to data made available by international accounting firm BDO, Walmart filed more drone-related patents than Amazon over the past two years—and nearly twice as many since July 2018.

BDO found that over the past 12 months, Walmart filed 97 new drone patents with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) compared to the 54 new drone-related designs filed by Amazon in the same time frame. In the 12 months prior, Walmart managed to file 57 new patents in the field of drone technology while Amazon held pat at 54.

Last year, Walmart made waves with one of those patents—alluding to a future delivery system that would be a conglomeration of drone technology, robots and blockchain in response to Amazon’s speculative drone fleet, Prime Air.

Tony Spillet, a partner at BDO, said in a blog post that Walmart and Amazon are far from alone when it comes to investing in drone R&D. Over the past year, drone patents have skyrocketed worldwide.

“The number of commercial applications of drones have evolved dramatically just in the last three years, resulting in a boom in the number of patents,” Spillet explained.

From an international perspective, the 6,002 drone patents filed by Chinese businesses in 2018 tripled those filed from the U.S., with no other region even remotely close. The U.S. filed 2,045 patents with the WIPO compared to the Republic of Korea at 741 and Australia at 81.

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In fact, worldwide drone patents have jumped 34 percent year-over-year, according to BDO. To Spillet, this is more evidence that drones have officially become commercially viable.

“Both drone companies and corporations are rapidly exploring how they can use drones to deal with labor-intensive or hazardous tasks. With two-thirds of drone patents being filed by Chinese companies, it’s clear just how much investment China is making in tech R&D,” he added.

Walmart Filed Almost Twice as Many Drone Patents as Amazon This Year
Data provided by BDO Sourcing Journal

Amazon has been no slouch when it comes to unveiling new drone technology, however, and will likely not be easily bested in the field. Earlier in June, Amazon announced a hybrid “chopper-plane” drone that is equipped with AI to lessen the chance of accident or interference. Amazon said it expects to be delivering small goods using the craft in mere months.

To compete, Walmart has decided to take the tech giant head on. With every new advantage developed by Amazon (i.e. shoppable video and one-day shipping), Walmart is soon to follow. Additionally, the retailer hired a former Google and Amazon vet to be its chief technology officer in May, a move that could aid in its pursuit of commercial drones.