Bentonville-based retailer Walmart has filed more drone patents than e-commerce giant Amazon for the second consecutive year as Amazon plans to start “within months” to deliver products via drone to customers.
Since July 2018, Walmart has filed 97 new drone patents with the World Intellectual Property Organization, according to a recent article in Financial Times. Over the same period, Amazon has filed 54 drone patents. In the previous year, Walmart filed 57 of the patents, while Amazon filed 54, according to the article.
Globally, Walmart and Amazon were among the top 10 filers of drone patents in the past year as the two retailers look to decrease costs and improve efficiency in deliveries and in internal logistics, according to accountancy and business advisory firm BDO LLP. In April, Amazon announced it would invest $800 million to reduce delivery times for its Prime members. Weeks later, Walmart announced it would offer free next-day delivery in select areas and has plans to expand the service to 75% of U.S. consumers by the end of the year.
Between July 2017 and June 2018, the number of patents filed globally for drone technology at the World Intellectual Property Organization rose 34% to 9,458, according to BDO. Over the same period, businesses in China filed 6,002 drone patents, the most of any country. U.S. businesses filed 2,045 of the patents, followed by South Korea, with 741 filings. One of the patents Walmart filed regarded a drone system to allow for the delivery of retail products to customer’s addresses.
Earlier this month, Jeff Wilke, CEO of Amazon’s Worldwide Consumer division, announced it would start to deliver packages via drone to customers “within months” and unveiled a new drone design, which can fly up to 15 miles and deliver packages under 5 pounds to customers in less than 30 minutes. Amazon’s first Prime Air delivery via drone was Dec. 7, 2016, to a customer in Cambridge, England.