Wal-Mart is following the likes of Amazon and Google, having applied to U.S. regulators to test a drone delivery service that will see drones being used for both curbside pickup and checking inventory in warehouses.
The company has reportedly been conducting small indoor tests of small drones, and is now seeking approval to test the drones outside and in a more widespread manner. It says that it will be using drones built by a Chinese company called SZ DJI Technology.
On top of drones helping in inventory, they will also help in making Wal-Mart's distribution system much more efficient. According to Wal-Mart's application to the Federal Aviation Administration, the company wants to use drones for "deliveries to customers at Walmart facilities, as well as to consumer homes."
Of course, Wal-Mart joins a number of well-known companies working on delivery systems that use drones. These include the likes of Amazon and Google, who have both been leading the pack in using drones. The FAA is in the process of finalizing regulations that would see companies be able to use drones in this way, with FAA Deputy Administrator Michael Whitaker saying in June that it was working to have regulations finalized within 12 months.
The FAA will now review Wal-Mart's application, and will determine whether it needs to be fast-tracked like applications for other companies or exempt, which would see regulators conducting a risk analysis and seeking public comment.
Amazon and Google, however, haven't mentioned using drones for taking inventory. Wal-Mart says that it will use drones to take stock of trailers and other items in parking lots of warehouses. This will use electronic tagging.
Wal-Mart also says that it will be using drones for its grocery pickup service, which is currently operating in 23 markets, with plans to expand into another 20 markets in 2016. The test slights that the company conducts will see whether or not a drone would be able to pick up a package and deliver it to a point in the parking lot.