It appears the drone delivery superhighway is about to get more crowded. Walmart has requested permission from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to test drones for home delivery, curbside pickup and warehouse inventory management, Reuters reports.
Walmart plans to use drones built by DJI, maker of the very popular Phantom line of drones, and has reportedly already been testing drones indoors “for months.”
Walmart wants to test drones for grocery pickup, a service it recently expanded and plans to offer in 43 markets next year
Walmart also wants to test drone delivery for customers at Walmart facilities and 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.”
“Drones have a lot of potential to further connect our vast network of stores, distribution centers, fulfillment centers, and transportation fleet,” says Walmart spokesperson Dan Toporek. “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.”
The move comes as Amazon, Google and other companies test drones in the expectation that the FAA will soon establish rules for their widespread commercial use. FAA Deputy Administrator Michael Whitaker said in June that the agency expected to finalize regulations within the next 12 months, faster than previously planned. Commercial drone use is currently illegal, though companies can apply for exemptions.
Amazon has been the leader in this race. Amazon finally received permission to test delivery drones outdoors earlier this year, but it still says the FAA isn’t moving fast enough. The online retailer even laid out a plan for carving out airspace exclusively for delivery drones.