After Amazon, Wal-Mart wants drones to make home delivery, pickup

|October 27, 2015 0

MUMBAI, INDIA: In a bid to meet the challenges for fastest delivery and pick-up—a key SLA for any e-commerce company, Wal-Mart which has recently expanded its online presence wants drones to make home deliveries and pick-up.

Amazon has already carried out successful pilots, and it all goes well, Wall-Mart which has applied to the US regulators for permission to test drones for home delivery, curbside pickup and check warehouse inventories, will soon follow suit.

According to reports, Wal-Mart has been conducting in-house pilots with the drones, manufactured by Chinese firm SZ DJI Technology, for several months and has now sought permission to go live.

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“In addition to having drones take inventory of trailers outside its warehouses and perform other tasks aimed at making its distribution system more efficient, Wal-Mart is asking the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for permission to research drone use in “deliveries to customers at Wal-Mart facilities, as well as to consumer homes,” according to a copy of the application reviewed by Reuters.

The retailer also wants to test drones for its grocery pickup service, which it has recently expanded to 23 markets with plans to add another 20 markets next year. The test flights would confirm whether a drone could deliver a package to a pick-up point in the parking lot of a store, as per the application.

Wal-Mart also said it wants to test home delivery 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,” the application said.

It is learnt that the FAA will review Wal-Mart’s petition to determine whether it is similar enough to earlier successful applications to be fast-tracked, or whether it would set a precedent for exemptions, requiring regulators to conduct a detailed risk analysis and seek public comment, agency spokesman Les Dorr said. The FAA normally aims to respond to such petitions in 120 days, Reuters reported.

Reuters quoted Wal-Mart spokesman Dan Toporek said the company would move quickly to deploy drones depending on its tests and regulations.

“Drones have a lot of potential to further connect our vast network of stores, distribution centers, fulfillment centers and transportation fleet,” he said. “There is a Wal-Mart within five miles of 70 percent of the US population, which creates some unique and interesting possibilities for serving customers with drones,” as per a Reuters report.

To date the FAA has approved more than 2,100 exemptions allowing for commercial drone testing and use, Reuters said.

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