Walmart Applies for Patent on Flying Robot Bees

The retail giant wants to answer the declining bee population and primitive crop fertilizing with autonomous drone swarms called 'drone pollinators.'

Irfan Khan/LA Times via Getty Images

Walmart applied for a patent for “drone pollinators" on March 8, with the application’s notes detailing the continuous decline of healthy insect pollination rates and that unmanned aerial vehicles would be better suited to collect pollen and fertilize crops than the traditional crop-duster standard.

According to CBS, scientists have found that pesticides are a cause of the swift decline of the bee population. Whatever the cause, this modern environmental trend called Colony Collapse Disorder is of serious concern to professionals in the field. Bees are, after all, responsible for much of the pollination across Earth, with some crops relying completely on their behavior. 

Though it’s still widely disputed that Albert Einstein actually said the following, it certainly sounds serious enough to consider: “If the bee disappeared off the face of the Earth, man would only have four years left to live.”

The patent application itself expounds on the types of methods and systems proposed to alleviate the decline in pollination rates, such as UAVs autonomously collecting pollen from one crop’s flowers and applying it to another, plus secondary drone units with embedded pollen-decking sensors then confirming whether or not those pollinations were successful.

“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,” a Walmart spokesman told CBS

We’ve previously reported on similar environmentally-conscious drone efforts like this, such as the tree-planting UAV intended to combat C02 emissions, or the pellet-dropping drone used to save the black-footed ferret population in Central Montana. While a certain apprehension is healthy, when faced with the news that America’s largest corporation is patenting flying swarms of robot bees, the stated intentions, at this point, indicate a logical, universal motivation: To keep the world spinning.