Walmart seeks permission to test drone delivery

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NEW YORK (Oct. 26, 2015) — Walmart asked federal regulators Monday for permission to put drones in the sky.

The company filed a form with the Federal Aviation Administration requesting permission to conduct “flight tests.”

Spokesperson Brian Nick said Walmart has been testing indoors for several months. If their FAA request is approved, the retail giant will be able to send its drones up to 400 feet above specified testing sites — which may include neighborhoods, Walmart stores and distribution centers.

It’s another sign Walmart is clamoring to compete with Amazon, which has has spearheaded commercial drone testing. The FAA gave Amazon permission to start testing drones in March.

But getting a package from either company via unmanned aircraft won’t happen anytime soon. Amazon said its still “years” away, and Walmart “couldn’t put a time frame” on its roll out.

Walmart plans to test home delivery, but Nick said the “initial focus” will be shipping merchandise between distribution centers. The company is also looking into using drones at its stores for security and transporting customers’ purchases across parking lots, according to the FAA filing.

“Walmart is within 5 miles of 70% of the U.S. population,” Nick said. “It creates some interesting possibilities.”