Asda owner Walmart to test drone deliveries

The company follows the lead of Amazon and smaller companies seeking to be exempted from US-government drone rules.

Zlata Rodionova
Tuesday 27 October 2015 15:51
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A prototype delivery drone developed by French company Geopost takes part in a test flight
A prototype delivery drone developed by French company Geopost takes part in a test flight

Walmart, the world’s largest retailer by revenue and owner of the British supermarket Asda, has become the latest to apply to ask for permissions to test drone to deliver packages to its customers at home.

The company follows the lead of Amazon and smaller companies seeking to be exempted from US-government drone rules.

Walmart has been conducting indoor tests for several months and is now seeking to test the unmanned aircraft outdoors.

If tests go according to plan, Walmart aims to use drones in an effort to create a more efficient supply chain.

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

"There is a Walmart within five miles of 70 per cent of the US population, which creates some unique and interesting possibilities for serving customers with drones," he said.

The retail giant is also interested in using the drones to deliver groceries to its customers as the company is in the process of expanding its grocery pickup service. The application also reportedly suggested that drones could potentially be used to carry items from stores to the parking lot, meaning it would help customers to carry their own groceries to their cars.

Finding ways to make its warehouse, transportation and delivery systems more efficient is a clear priority for Walmart, which earlier this month recorded an unprecedented decline in profits – one reason for which was an increase in online sales.

Although it is currently illegal to fly drones for commercial purposes in the US, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been granting exemptions on ca case-by case basis. In June, senior FAA official Michael Whitaker said its final rules on commercial drone will be finalized within a year.

E-commerce retailer Amazon has said it would be ready to begin delivering packages using drone as soon as the FAA rules allow it.

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

Additional reporting by Reuters

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