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Wal-Mart wants to test drones for delivery and tracking goods

October 26, 2015 05:49 PM
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(Bloomberg)—Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer and No. 3 in the Internet Retailer 2105 Top 500 Guide, wants to test drones for delivering products, entering a race with online competitors Amazon.com Inc. (No. 1) and Alphabet Inc.’s Google.

Wal-Mart on Monday asked the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration for a waiver to test drones outdoors, with a goal of eventually using them to deliver goods to consumers.

“Wal-Mart’s distribution system could become more efficient and consumers could be better served, benefiting the public interest,” the company said in its application. It has already been experimenting indoors where it doesn’t need government approval, according to its filing with the agency.

The company also wants to use drones to assist with tracking merchandise, such as taking inventory of trailers outside its distribution centers, according to the filing. Wal-Mart will have to wait until it does further testing before it can determine if or when drones will become part of its daily operations, a spokesman said.

It has already been experimenting indoors where it doesn’t need government approval, according to its filing with the agency.

The FAA has issued more than 2,000 waivers to businesses that want to use drones for such uses as photography, aerial surveillance and inspections. So far, the approvals have been for low-altitude flights within sight of the operator and away from bystanders, making it impossible to use for delivering products to people’s homes.

Companies such as Amazon and Google have also been testing drones designed to deliver small packages to people’s homes, a concept that both have said is still years away.

Singapore Post Ltd. earlier this month said a drone it developed with the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore carried a packet containing a letter and T-shirt on a five-minute, two-kilometer (1.2 miles) flight.

 

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