Quantcast

Walmart Files Patent for Robot Bees

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

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.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Aerial assessment of Hurricane Sandy damage in Connecticut. Dannel Malloy / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Extreme weather events supercharged by climate change in 2012 led to nearly 1,000 more deaths, more than 20,000 additional hospitalizations, and cost the U.S. healthcare system $10 billion, a new report finds.

Read More Show Less
Giant sequoia trees at Sequoia National Park, California. lucky-photographer / iStock / Getty Images Plus

A Bay Area conservation group struck a deal to buy and to protect the world's largest remaining privately owned sequoia forest for $15.6 million. Now it needs to raise the money, according to CNN.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
This aerial view shows the Ogasayama Sports Park Ecopa Stadium, one of the venues for 2019 Rugby World Cup. MARTIN BUREAU / AFP / Getty Images

The Rugby World Cup starts Friday in Japan where Pacific Island teams from Samoa, Fiji and Tonga will face off against teams from industrialized nations. However, a new report from a UK-based NGO says that when the teams gather for the opening ceremony on Friday night and listen to the theme song "World In Union," the hypocrisy of climate injustice will take center stage.

Read More Show Less
Vera_Petrunina / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Wudan Yan

In June, New York Times journalist Andy Newman wrote an article titled, "If seeing the world helps ruin it, should we stay home?" In it, he raised the question of whether or not travel by plane, boat, or car—all of which contribute to climate change, rising sea levels, and melting glaciers—might pose a moral challenge to the responsibility that each of us has to not exacerbate the already catastrophic consequences of climate change. The premise of Newman's piece rests on his assertion that traveling "somewhere far away… is the biggest single action a private citizen can take to worsen climate change."

Read More Show Less
Volunteer caucasian woman giving grain to starving African children. Bartosz Hadyniak / E+ / Getty Images

By Frances Moore Lappé

Food will be scarce, expensive and less nutritious," CNN warns us in its coverage of the UN's new "Climate Change and Land" report. The New York Times announces that "Climate Change Threatens the World's Food Supply."

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
British Airways 757. Jon Osborne / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

By Adam Vaughan

Two-thirds of people in the UK think the amount people fly should be reined in to tackle climate change, polling has found.

Read More Show Less
Climate Week NYC

On Monday, Sept. 23, the Climate Group will kick off its 11th annual Climate Week NYC, a chance for governments, non-profits, businesses, communities and individuals to share possible solutions to the climate crisis while world leaders gather in the city for the UN Climate Action Summit.

Read More Show Less

By Pam Radtke Russell in New Orleans

Local TV weather forecasters have become foot soldiers in the war against climate misinformation. Over the past decade, a growing number of meteorologists and weathercasters have begun addressing the climate crisis either as part of their weather forecasts, or in separate, independent news reports to help their viewers understand what is happening and why it is important.

Read More Show Less