Wal-Mart intends to test drones for package delivery and pickup and for checking warehouse inventories.
The retailer submitted an application Monday to U.S. regulators for permission to test drones outdoors, following in Amazon’s footsteps. Drones would be used for “deliveries to customers at Wal-Mart facilities, as well as to consumer homes,” according to the application.
“Throughout the years, Wal-Mart has been a leader in distribution and transportation methods to effectively move merchandise from vendors to distribution centers and from distribution centers to its stores,” the application states. It says Wal-Mart hopes to make its present distribution system “more efficient.”
“We’ll have different methods that we’ll be testing out across our supply chain,” said Wal-Mart spokesperson Brian Nick. “We would be testing this kind of technology to mange our network of distribution centers, online fulfillment centers, as well as stores.”
Most long-distance drone deliveries are limited by flight times, since most drones are only able to fly about 25 minutes at a time. But Wal-Mart thinks it can capitalize on their expanse of stores to turn drone delivery into a real possibility.
There’s a Wal-Mart store located within five miles of 70% of the U.S. population, Nick said.
“That certainly creates some interesting possibilities for us,” he said.