US retailer Wal-Mart has applied to US regulators for permission to test drones for home delivery, pick-up and checking warehouse inventories.
The company, the world’s largest retailer by revenue, has been conducting indoor tests of drones in recent months, and is now looking to test them outdoors. The drones are manufactured by China’s SZ DJI Technology Co Ltd.
Wal-Mart has asked the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for permission for its drones to be used to take stock of trailers outside its warehouses and perform other tasks aimed at making its distribution system more efficient.
According to Reuters, which saw a copy of the application, it has also asked the regulator if the company could research drone use in “deliveries to customers at Walmart facilities, as well as to consumer homes” and for its grocery pick-up service
FAA, which is expected to finalise regulations on commercial drone usage within the next 12 months, is currently reviewing Wal-Mart’s petition and will consider whether the application should be fast-tracked or denied.
The FAA normally aims to respond to such petitions in 120 days. Amazon, which has also committed to using drones for online order deliveries, has said it would be ready to begin delivering packages to customers via drones as soon as federal rules allow.
“Drones have a lot of potential to further connect our vast network of stores, distribution centers, fulfillment centers and transportation fleet,” said Wal-Mart spokesman Dan Toporek.
“There is a Walmart within five miles of 70 percent of the U.S. population, which creates some unique and interesting possibilities for serving customers with drones.”
Wal-Mart also said it wants to test home delivery in small residential neighborhoods after obtaining permission from those living in the flight path. The test would see if a drone could be deployed from a truck “to safely deliver a package at a home and then return safely to the same,” the application says.