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Walmart wants to copy Amazon’s flying warehouse idea

Walmart wants to mimic Amazon’s far-out technology again — and this time the copycatting involves blimps.

The Arkansas-based retailer has filed a patent for a “gas-filled aerial transport” — basically a blimp that would serve as a flying warehouse full of inventory to be picked up and delivered by drones.

That’s on the heels of Amazon — whose plans to use drones at its warehouses on the ground have likewise inspired a Walmart drone program — filing a patent for a blimp-like warehouse in April 2016.

According to Walmart’s application with the US Patent and Trademark Office, the blimp would dispatch the drones from a built-in launching bay after they’re loaded by a “system that automatically receives and attaches at least one package.”

A major difference between the two patents is altitude.

Walmart said the lifting force for its floating warehouse should allow it to fly at heights between 500 and 1,000 feet.

But Amazon said its “aerial fulfillment center” would park as high as 45,000 feet — “out of the flight path of commercial airplanes” — a perch from which package-bearing drones would glide down to their destinations.

Bloomberg first reported on Walmart’s patent application, which it filed Feb. 8 but didn’t publish until Aug. 17.

The futuristic fulfillment systems seek to improve on delivery options for the “last mile” — the final leg of a journey before a shipment and its recipient come together.

Amazon and Walmart often use outside vendors for this problematic shipping leg, and have even tapped into their workforces to increase delivery times and ease notoriously high last-mile costs.

Walmart’s taking on Amazon in the skies is the latest twist in a cutthroat rivalry.

Amazon is expanding from its online roots not only by opening bricks-and-mortar outlets but also by agreeing to acquire Whole Foods’ 468 outlets for $13.7 billion.

Walmart, meanwhile, acquired Jet.com last September for $3.3 billion.

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