Walmart reasserts interest in blockchain-powered drones

Walmart reasserts interest in blockchain-powered drones

U.S. retail giant Walmart has reignited its interest in blockchain technology with the filing of a patent for drone-drone communications using blockchain. Titled “Cloning Drones Using Blockchain”, the patent outlines a blockchain-based system that encrypts and stores a drone’s operational parameters.

The patent, which was published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on August 1, describes the system which will determine operational parameters of a drone, encrypt these parameters and store them on the blockchain. These parameters will include flight heights, flight routes and flight speeds.

It will also determine when a second drone is in close proximity of the first drone, retrieve the parameters of the first drone, decrypt these parameters and then use them to configure the second drone.

While unmanned aerial vehicles have continued to evolve, the communication between them has lagged behind, the patent claims. The use of blockchain technology will greatly improve the communications between these vehicles, “such that every vehicle is aware of the speed, direction, braking, etc., of the other vehicles, allowing unprecedented coordination. Further, messages may be relayed from vehicle to vehicle.”

Walmart stated in the patent filing, “A blockchain ledger may store any kind of information that may be stored in any other format or medium, for example, a large list of instructions of different types, navigational information, and maps. In such a way, a same software profile may be deployed across the cloned drones.”

Walmart, which is the largest company in the U.S. with over 2.2 million employees, is not new in the blockchain patents field. Last year, the company filed a patent for a blockchain-powered army of autonomous robots that will handle package delivery throughout its extensive supply chain. The robots will use wireless signals to communicate, with blockchain technology eliminating the risk of security breaches.

The retailer has also continued to explore blockchain technology to fight counterfeiting in its supply chain. Walmart partnered with IBM, Merck and KPMG this year on a blockchain platform that aims to track prescription drugs. The platform aims to assist the Food and Drug Administration and other stakeholders to identify the point of origin of a drug and trace it all the way through the distribution to patients.

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