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Walmart Wants To Be Like Amazon, Asks Gov't For Permission To Test Drone Deliveries

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Say "bye-bye" to your UPS guy and say "hello" to your friendly neighborhood drone.

Walmart is following in the footsteps of Amazon by leveraging its brick and mortar stores to get its piece of the pie in the sky.

As a result, the company is taking proactive steps to compete against the likes of Amazon should business move to the heavens. The company applied to U.S. regulators on Monday for permission to test unmanned aircraft systems — more popularly referred to as drones — to fill and deliver online orders straight to customers' homes.

Back in 2012, the Congress asked the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to come up with rules for governing commercial drone use in the future. Three years later just this last June, the FAA's Deputy Administrator Michael Whitaker said the agency will be ready to roll out those rules and finalize regulations of them within 12 months.

Walmart's drones, made by China's SZ DJI Technology Co Ltd. and makers of the popular DJI Phantom 3 drone, have already been flying inside Walmart's properties. In its recent FAA application, the company is targeting to test those drones for the first time outdoors. Specifically, Walmart wants its drones to take stock of trailers and other items in the parking lot of a warehouse by using electronic tagging and other methods.

Besides keeping an eye on trailers, Walmart also wants to test its drones for its grocery pickup service and see if they can actually deliver a bag of groceries to an exact pick-up point in the parking lot of one of its physical stores. Finally, Walmart applied to test its drones in residential neighborhoods for its home delivery service. The drone would be deployed from a truck to safely deliver a package to the customer's home and then return to the delivery truck.

With a Walmart within just five miles of 70 percent of the U.S. population, the company may have a better shot at fulfilling its customers' orders than drone deliveries from Amazon's more sparsely located fulfillment centers.

"That certainly creates some interesting possibilities for us," says Walmart's spokesperson Brian Nick.

Photo: Jaya Ramchandani | Flickr

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