Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT) and Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) have been battling for the retailer’s top spot in the U.S and now the chain of discount department stores and warehouse stores wants to take it to the skies.
Walmart confirmed the news by applying to federal regulators for a permission to test its drones. The giant says it will use them for home delivery and distribution at its centers and stores around the world. The idea is pretty much what Amazon has been trying to do for the last two years with Prime Air delivery.
The Internet based retailer recently called for air space to be designated specifically for commercial drones. Its founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, said earlier this year that drones one day would be as common as seeing a mail truck.
Walmart has actually been testing its two types of drones indoors for a few months now and is ready to take the next step by asking federal regulators to give them permission for more testing. Dan Toporek, a spokesman for the retailer said the company sees a lot of potential uses for the drones.
He talked about an scenario where a drone is at one of their million-square-foot distribution centers and is flying around and doing inventory work. He added that they could fly something from one distribution center to a fulfillment center or a store.
He also mentioned curbside pickups and bringing out goods to customers at the corner of a parking lot. He finished by talking about the deliveries to residential neighborhoods and that they need to get closer to people.
Two Types and Obstacles
Walmart’s filing with the Federal Aviation Administration revealed that it is testing the Phantom 3 and S900 drones, which were manufactured by a Chinese tech company. Those drones have done a lot of work in the movie industry, shooting aerial scenes for the film crews.
But the idea of having drones flying around is something that is still under discussion, despite many companies spending their time and resources on testing this type of delivery. The regulatory hurdles have to be cleared before Amazon and Walmart can start battling in the air.
Regulations and Testing
We’re actually allowed to fly drones, now on sale for as little as $50 on Amazon and other retailers, but federal regulations still prohibit their commercial use. According to experts, one of the biggest obstacles is convincing regulators that operators can safely fly these drones from miles away.
But the companies testing drones hope that regulators start getting rid of these rules soon so they can start delivering. Investors in the U.S have put in millions for this technology, which they say can be used for other things, such as providing Internet access, cellphone towers and even inspecting areas.
The Federal Aviation Administration did not comment on Walmart’s application.
Are drones really the way to go? Will they ever loosen the rules? Let us know in the comments.