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Walmart and DroneUp set up drone delivery hubs

Walmart is partnering with Virginia-based DroneUp on a network of drone delivery hubs, starting with a neighborhood market in Farmington, Ark.

The move appears to put Walmart ahead of its retail rival, Amazon, in expanding the frontier for aerial deliveries. Amazon announced its drone development program back in 2013, and two years ago, the company said regular drone deliveries were mere months away. Recent reports, however, have hinted that Amazon Prime Air’s progress has slowed down significantly.

Today’s announcement about the first delivery hubs in Arkansas comes five months after Walmart made a strategic investment in DroneUp and signed a contract that expanded the companies’ pilot project for drone deliveries.

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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.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

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Amazon and Walmart plan airships for drones

Amazon drone airships
Amazon’s newly published patent envisions a fleet of airships that would monitor delivery drones. (Amazon Illustration via USPTO)

We already know about Amazon’s concept for airship warehouses to support drone deliveries, but here’s a new twist: Now the Seattle-based retailing giant has received a patent for another airship application, aimed at keeping track of drones as they go about their business.

And there’s yet another twist: That other retailing giant, Walmart, has its own plans for airship warehouses.

Amazon’s concept – known as an airborne monitoring station, or AMS – is described in a patent application that was filed two years ago and published today.

Get the full story on GeekWire.