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Walmart seeks FAA approval to test drones for delivery services

Published 27 October 2015

After Amazon initiated drone testing to fulfill order deliveries, Walmart is treading the same path by seeking permission from US regulators to test drones for home delivery, checking warehouse inventories and for curbside pickup.

walmart supercenter

For several months now, the department store chain has been conducting indoor tests of small air systems termed as drones. The retailer is now seeking permission to test the machine outdoors. The company plans to use drones made by China's SZ DJI Technology Co Ltd, reported Reuters.

Walmart is also seeking approval from Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to find drone usage in delivery of goods to customers in Walmart stores as well as to their homes.

In its application, the retailer stated that it wants to use drones for grocery pickup service. Recently, the retailer expanded its pickup service to 23 markets and by next year it plans to launch the service in 20 more markets. The test flights will help know whether a drone can drop a package to a pick-up point in the parking area of a store, the company said in its application.

The retailer also wants to test home delivery in small residential areas after it secures approval from residents in the flight path.

The move by the retailing giant comes as other companies such as Google, Amazon are testing drones amidst expectations that the FAA will lay down rules for its commercial use.

The FAA is expected to come up with a regulation in the next one year, according to FAA Deputy Administrator Michael Whitaker's June statement. Presently, drone usage for commercial purposes is illegal but companies can apply only under exceptional cases.

FAA spokesman Les Dorr was quoted by Reuters as saying that the agency will review Walmart's application and check whether it is similar to the earlier successful applications or whether it requires a a review and seek public opinion.

Usually, FAA responds to petitions within 120 days.

Wal-Mart spokesman Dan Toporek was quoted by Reuters as saying: "Drones have a lot of potential to further connect our vast network of stores, distribution centers, fulfillment centers and transportation fleet.

"There is a Walmart within five miles of 70 percent of the US population, which creates some unique and interesting possibilities for serving customers with drones."

Image: Walmart to test drone technology for home delivery. Photo: Courtesy of Raysonho @ Open Grid Scheduler / Grid Engine/Wikipedia.