Walmart Seeks FAA Permission to Test Drones for Deliveries

A drone flies, carrying a package.

Image: Shutterstock

Walmart is the most recent major company to try and get into the drone game, and has petitioned the FAA for an exemption to allow them to test the use of unmanned aircraft for warehouse management, curbside pickup, and hoe delivery. Currently, commercial use of drones is illegal, but the FAA is expected to make final rulings about their use within the next 12 months, which is sooner than was expected.

There are so far 2,100 exemptions to the commercial use laws, mostly for research purposes as companies like Amazon and Google try to figure out how they will use drones if and when it becomes legal to do so. Amazon has so far led the way, making it clear they wish to use the aircraft to deliver goods to customers, and have been claiming that for a while now. They have stated that they would be able to put drones to work more or less immediately once the FAA approves commercial use.

Walmart is a little slower, having been testing drones indoors, and now seeks to test them outdoors. They want to use them to survey shipping facilities and keep tabs on what trailers are parked there and what is in those trailers, in order to speed up shipping. They have a store within 5 miles of 70% of Americans, so they have quite a lot of shipping to deal with.

They also want to try out curbside pickup, in which orders placed online can be delivered to a specific spot by drones for customers to pick up. That’s not something that drones are especially needed for, but it would likely speed things up. Finally, they want to test out delivering packages directly to customers’ homes, most likely with a truck as a waypoint between store and drone flight. They will need permission from people living within the flight paths of those drones, even with FAA permission, before they can test that program.

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