Wal-Mart Stores Inc. joined Amazon in applying Monday for permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to test delivery drones.
The retailer wants to research drone use in “deliveries to customers at Walmart facilities, as well as to consumer homes,” according to the application, which was reviewed by Reuters.
Drones would be used to assess warehouse inventory and deliver goods, including groceries, to customers’ homes as well as to Wal-Mart stores, according to Reuters.
The news that Wal-Mart, like Amazon, wants to employ drones in fulfillment shows the potential of the unmanned aircraft, and the huge task before the FAA to regulate air space along these lines.
Wal-Mart is under particular pressure to streamline its logistics, which have become a juggernaut that seems to have got the best of the huge retailer. Stores are messy and the company’s e-commerce operations are likely hobbled somewhat by its sprawling operations. Wal-Mart, it seems, sees drones as one way to help it improve its inventory and fulfillment management.
Wal-Mart’s application comes as Amazon, Google, and other companies are also testing drones and pressuring the FAA to establish rules for the commercial use of drones. FAA deputy administrator Michael Whitaker has said the agency has sped up its finalization of such regulations, which will likely be ready for comment within a year. Amazon for its part says it will deliver via drones as soon as it’s allowed to.