Quantcast
Business
A robot bee from a season three episode of Black Mirror on Netflix

Walmart Files Patent for Robot Bees

With the mass die-off of bees spelling trouble for agriculture, the world's largest retailer has filed patents for the use of "unmanned vehicles," or drones, to aid with pollination and crop production.

In U.S. Patent Office documents made public last week, Walmart has applied for six patents on drones designed to identify pest damage, spray pesticides and pollinate plants.


Reuters noted, "Walmart may see drone technology as one way to get food from farms to store shelves faster and more cheaply to compete with Amazon.com Inc, following its purchase of Whole Foods Market last year and the expansion of discount chains like Aldi and Lidl."

Here's what's in the filings, according to CB Insights:

To track pests, Walmart describes using machine vision to monitor damage to crops as well as spot and identify the pests themselves. To prevent damage, the drones could shoot targeted sprays of pesticide or simply fly by to shoo off birds, acting as a next-generation of "scarecrows or shiny devices," the patent notes.

Drones could spray pesticides across a more targeted set of crops, rather than the blanket approach used today. The patent notes that "chemical spraying of crops is expensive and may not be looked upon favorably by some consumers."

Pollination drones, on the other hand, could help offset the loss of bee populations over the past few years. Walmart's "applicators" would carry pollen from one plant to another, and use sensors to verify the transfer was successful.

Some have compared Walmart's filing for drone pollinators to a horrifying Black Mirror episode on robot bees, but this technology isn't completely unheard of.

"We're always thinking about new concepts and ways that will help us further enhance how we serve customers, but we don't have any further details to share on these patents at this time," Walmart said in a statement to USA TODAY.

Last year, Japanese researchers successfully demonstrated how a tiny, remote-controlled drone could pollinate flowers.

An estimated 1,000 plants grown for food, beverages, fibers, spices and medicines must be pollinated by bees, bats and butterflies and other pollinators, according to Pollinator Partnership.

But in recent years, these vital creatures have been in trouble due to habitat loss, chemicals misuse, diseases and other hazards.

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
A snapping turtle held by a Virginia Tech researcher. Virginia Tech

Land Use and Pollution Lead to More Male Snapping Turtle Babies, Researchers Find

The sex of reptiles like snapping turtles is determined by the temperature of the nest, with warmer temperatures leading to female births and colder temperatures leading to male babies. Because of this, climate change is projected to increase the number of female turtle births. However, scientists have discovered that other human impacts on the environment are leading to conditions that actually produce more males.

Keep reading... Show less

Organic Agriculture Is Going Mainstream, But Not the Way You Think It Is

By Jeremy L. Caradonna

One of the biggest knocks against the organics movement is that it has begun to ape conventional agriculture, adopting the latter's monocultures, reliance on purchased inputs and industrial processes.

Keep reading... Show less
View of the UN Bonn Campus on May 16, 2017. UNclimatechange / Flickr

‘Business Unusual’ Must Be the Mantra in Bonn as UN Climate Talks Resume Next Week

As the 2018 climate talks kick off under the auspices of the UN next week, "business unusual" must be the mantra delegations need heard resoundingly in Bonn, said the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Speaking ahead of the start of the meeting, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, WWF's global climate and energy programme leader, said the window of opportunity to keep global temperature rise below 1.5°C is fast closing.

Keep reading... Show less
UNAMID provided emergency aid for displaced people in Mellit, North Darfur on April 6, 2014. Hamid Abdulsalam, UNAMID / Flickr

Climate Is a 'Threat Multiplier' But Not Primary Cause of East African Conflict and Displacement, Study Finds

While there are predictions that climate change will displace masses of people in the near future—an Environmental Justice Foundation study reported on by The Guardian put the number in the tens of millions within the next decade—some have indicated that the climate refugee crisis has already begun.

The Syrian civil war has been linked to a massive drought in the region, and former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called the conflict in Darfur one of "the first climate wars" in 2007.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
Central Park. Ingfbruno / CC BY-SA 3.0

New York's Central Park Is Going Car-Free

One of the world's most iconic parks is going vehicle-free this summer; New York City is banning all cars and trucks from Central Park.

"This park was not built for automobiles," Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Friday in Central Park. "It was built for people."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Health
Infant receiving polio vaccine. CDC Global / CC BY 2.0

Did the Polio Vaccine Cause Cancer?

By Vanessa Schipani, FactCheck.org

Q: Did people develop cancer because of the polio vaccine?

A: There are no known cases, and it's very unlikely. In the 1950s and 1960s, people did receive polio vaccines contaminated with a virus that causes cancer in rodents. But research suggests this virus doesn't cause cancer in humans.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
The research icebreaker Polarstern in the central Arctic Ocean. Alfred-Wegener-Institute / Ruediger Stein

'Nowhere Is Immune': Researchers Find Record Levels of Microplastics in Arctic Sea Ice

Scientists found record levels of microplastics in Arctic sea ice, a study published Tuesday in Nature Communications revealed.

Researchers from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) sampled ice from five Arctic Ocean regions and found up to 12,000 microplastic particles per liter (approximately 1.06 liquid quarts) of ice, an AWI press release reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!