Walmart, the American retail chain worth $485.7 billion, applied today for permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to test drones for a variety of operations, from customer home delivery and pickup to keeping stock of inventories using electronic tracking.
Amazon and Google have been pursuing delivery drones for a while, so this Walmart news might seem kinda out of the blue. Reuters reports that the Arkansas-based Fortune 500 company, which is the world’s biggest retailer by revenue, wants to use China-manufactured drones in operations and has been testing UAVs for potential delivery use indoors for months—and now wants to take these tests to the skies. The company also wants to seek permission from residents in small neighborhoods to test home delivery drones in those areas.
“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,” Walmart spokesperson Dan Toporek told the news agency.
We’re leery, though—especially since more and more retailers will likely begin parading their drone testing applications and publicly pimping the benefits of UAVs in order to seem hip and innovative.
In any case, Reuters previously reported that the FAA aims to finalize regulations that could allow widespread commercial drone use by summer 2016.