Walmart now wants to test drones for home delivery

27 Oct 2015

Walmart distribution centre, via Spencer Tirey

Walmart has latched onto the thinking of home-delivery rival Amazon and started investigating if drones can do some of the leg work for it.

Drones are in their third age at the moment, having started as reconnaissance devices, before moving on to killing machines, they are currently the toy of choice for gadget fans all over the world.

However, major retailers are eyeing the fourth age, that of drone labourers, specifically for the delivery of packages to homes.

Amazon has been banging this drum for quite a while now, aggressively testing the devices in both the US and Canada in the recent past.

It has gone so far as suggesting a whole new concept of airspace, creating a commercial drone corridor between 200ft and 400ft above our heads.

Now the world’s largest retailer Walmart is deep into its own investigation of drones, with a behind-closed-doors testing leading to new plans for an outdoor variant.

“Drones have a lot of potential to further connect our vast network of stores, distribution centres, fulfilment centres and transportation fleet,” said Dan Toporek, a spokesman for the company.

“There is a Walmart within five miles of 70pc of the US population, which creates some unique and interesting possibilities for serving customers with drones.”

Considering Walmart has been trying hard to make its grocery delivery arm more successful, drones delivering shopping to homes would increase the service’s appeal markedly.

According to Reuters, the retailer’s application to the FAA seeks permission to test pickup capabilities with Walmart trucks (a huge logistical challenge in Walmart’s massive storage facilities) as well as test delivery to people’s homes.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic