Walmart reportedly asks FAA for permission to fly drones

According to Reuters, Walmart has reportedly petitioned the Federal Aviation Administration for permission to test drones in a variety of tasks -- from home delivery and curbside pickup operations to checking warehouse inventories. Walmart has apparently been testing these aerial platforms indoors for a number of months but needs the FAA's blessing to begin operating in the great wide open.

"Drones have a lot of potential to further connect our vast network of stores, distribution centers, fulfillment centers and transportation fleet," Walmart spokesman Dan Toporek told Reuters. "There is a Walmart within five miles of 70 percent of the U.S. population, which creates some unique and interesting possibilities for serving customers with drones."

Per its FAA application, Walmart disclosed that its drone fleet could first be employed to move stock from a warehouse to the trailer lot outside using electronic tags or similar machine-readable identification methods. They could also potentially be used to deliver groceries from the store to a specific spot in the parking lot, saving customers the hassle of carrying their own bags out to the car. Delivering goods directly to residences will likely take a bit more finagling (including getting permission from homes along the drone's flight path).

Walmart is the latest industry heavyweight to explore using drones. Amazon, Google and Facebook have also been toying with the platforms for a number of commercial and technical applications. At the very least, the world's largest retailer won't be able to implement any of these programs for about a year, which is how long the FAA says it needs to finalize its domestic UAV regulations.

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