Retail giant Walmart has been in the news this week after they applied for a patent for “drone pollinators” to help fill in for the declining population of bees. The reason behind the filing is that the bees, that are said to have been noticeably declining since 2006, are needed to fertilize the crops to produce the food sold by Walmart and other major grocers and if they go extinct as some scientists have suggested, Walmart will need a way to maintain their stock.
Scientists are pointing to pesticides as one cause of the decline in the winged insects that also serve as the world’s pollinators. The drop-off in bees is a major worry for agriculture, given some crops depend upon them to reproduce.
Walmart mention this ‘steady decline’ in their patent application, which, in addition to bees, includes ants, beetles, butterflies, and wasps. The application says that a more conventional method of fertilizing crops and spreading pollen — using crop-duster planes — has had limited success. The document also describes systems and methods for pollinating crops via unmanned aerial vehicles configured to collect pollen from the flowers of a first crop and then applied to those of a second crop. Follow-up drones outfitted with pollen-detector sensors would be used to ensure successful pollination.
“We’re always thinking about new concepts and ways that will help us further enhance how we service customers, but we don’t have any further details to share on these patents at this time,” stated a spokesperson for Walmart.