As stores across the country fumble, Wal-Mart is reaching for the sky — literally. A recent patent application by the company hints at a future floating warehouse that could dispatch home deliveries by way of drones. As sci-fi as it may sound, this new way of looking at distribution and delivery could unveil a smoother ride for the future of retail.

Arriving on the heels of talk predicting drones in Wal-Mart’s distribution centers, recent media reports say that the blimp-style aircraft — which could be flown by remote pilot or autonomously — is slated to fly at heights between 500 and 1,000 feet and might become of key assistance to the retailer.

The use of transportable warehouses would widen distribution regions, as opposed to traditional warehouses that limit order fulfillments within a particular driving distance as well as facilitate more cost-effective approaches to fulfilling online orders.

Wal-Mart’s patent application confirmed that getting a product to a delivery location can add value, cut revenue and result in consumer-deterring delays. The company’s application also expressed that there is a heightened need for convenience and enhanced customer service in today’s contemporary — and often complicated — retail environment.

Kill Spencer teamed with Intel to shoot a marketing video using the tech firm's RealSense technology in a drone.

Drone deliveries may not be so far away for consumers.  Courtesy of Intel

An aircraft that could fly to a certain area, release several drones to deliver items on customers’ doorsteps and return to the aircraft to restock (and repeat) might help change the game. Wal-Mart’s advanced move also reinforces its positioning as a powerful competitor to Amazon, which was granted a patent for a similar concept last year.

Fittingly the retailer’s futuristic machine warehouse — should it be approved — showcases its embrace of innovative technologies, which are likely related to its notable success of late. In an uncertain climate, retailers need to hunt for ways to find solutions to better the customer service experience — Wal-Mart’s dedication to improving product availability and distribution serves as a prime example.

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