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Why Walmart wants to patent robot bees

Robot bees
Robotic bees were the subject of a dystopian video four years ago. (Greenpeace via YouTube)

Robot bees have hit the big time.

In the 10 days since Walmart’s patent application for “systems and methods for pollinating crops via unmanned vehicles” came to light, the idea of building drones to do what bees do has gone viral.

The piece de resistance came on “Saturday Night Live” when Walmart’s concept got a mention on “Weekend Update” (around the 6:30 mark in this video clip).

“What is Walmart now?” comedian Colin Jost asked. “It’s a department store that became a grocery store, and a firearms dealer, and now they’re just building an army of robot bees?

“I miss the good old days, when Walmart was just a place where I saw my third-grade teacher punch a greeter on Black Friday,” he said.

CB Insights says the patent application is one of six that Walmart filed for farm automation applications, including crop monitoring, pest identification and pesticide spraying.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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