Walmart Filed a Patent for Flying Warehouses. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

boxes in walmart fulfillment center
Photo courtesy of Walmart

No, it’s not a bird.

It’s not a plane.

And it’s definitely not a Walmart warehouse floating a few hundred feet off the ground, packed to the brim with cheap bicycles, produce, electronics and anything else you might want delivered directly to your door hours after you order it.

At least not yet.

But we could look up one day and see just that, according to Consumerist. That’s because last week, Walmart filed a patent to create such a thing.

The description of it comes directly from what writers have imagined in every movie about the future we’ve ever seen.

First off, it’s not a building. It’s technically an aircraft that sounds a bit like a blimp. It would use compressed gas to float and fly. Speaking of flying, this futuristic warehouse will be able to fly between 500 and 1,000 feet above the ground.

It would also come equipped with several launching bays, because we’ll obviously need a place for the drones to pick up our packages for delivery.

This would all be manned by a person on the ground flying the aircraft and controlling the drones.

United States Patent and Trademark Office

Amazon Will Also Take to the Skies

This shouldn’t surprise you: Amazon, Walmart’s stiffest competitor, is planning to build something similar. Amazon’s rendition imagines a floating warehouse that stocks commonly ordered products.

These floating fulfillment centers will hang out over densely populated areas like cities or even sporting events and festivals, and presumably be able to deliver products immediately.

It’s too soon to put a timeline on when these warehouses will take over the skies — or say whether Amazon or Walmart will win the retail version of the race to the moon.

Theoretically, when this happens, we’ll be able to count on faster and even cheaper delivery.

But What Could Go Wrong?

Competition can make even the brightest among us blind to the consequences of our actions.

So, if Amazon and Walmart are going to insist on pulling a page from the scripts of every single movie about the future ever created, I think it’s our duty to think of all the ways it could go wrong. Both companies should know what they’re getting themselves into.

Here are my top five concerns in no particular order:

1. What About the Jobs?

I appreciate the idea of cheaper, faster delivery, but I can’t help but wonder: If it only takes one person at a time to run Walmart’s floating warehouse, what does that mean for delivery jobs in the future?

2. How Long Before We Block Out the Sun, Mr. Burns Style?

I don’t mean to get apocalyptic here, but I can’t get that clip from “The Simpsons” out of my head.

While Amazon and Walmart might not build a device whose sole function is to block out the sun, how long will it take before the sky is so filled with warehouses and drones that we can no longer see the light?

3. Seriously, What if This Thing Falls out of the Sky?

So far, Walmart seems to believe one person can run its entire aircraft.

But I have questions: Who is this person? Do we trust them with our lives? What is the contingency plan if this thing comes tumbling out of the sky — bikes, produce, electronics and all? Will there be enough time to evacuate and save ourselves?

4. What About Summer in Florida?

I’m not sure why we are known for having perfect weather down here in Florida. It rains pretty much every day in the summer. Does that mean we’re going to get used to immediate delivery for most of the year and be sorely disappointed every summer?

5. What Will Movies About the Future Have Now That the Future Is Here?

Floating buildings and flying cars have pretty much always been the easy go-to for everyone who wanted to depict the far-off future in the movies.

What are these people supposed to do when the future is right outside our doors? Does Hollywood have the creativity necessary to sustain this kind of blow to the genre?

Desiree Stennett (@desi_stennett) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

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