U.S. retailer, Walmart, wants to test the use of drones for delivering to customers in store parking lots and at customer residences. Ro that end, the company filed a petition in late October with the Federal Aviation Administration for an exemption from current regulations to allow drone testing for commercial purposes.
The FAA review process takes 120 days. The FAA has issued 2,020 permits for commercial drones for various purposes, including aerial photography and agricultural monitoring; Walmart’s filing is well within the parameters of previous filings. Testing is a necessary part of integrating such new technology into established commercial practices. Per Walmart spokesman Dan Toporek, the massive retailer is using drones to create a more efficient supply chain. “You test for a reason,” he said, “because you learn during tests and you tend to evolve and figure out which approaches are most compelling to customers and most efficient for the business.” He goes on to say that Walmart is ready to start outdoor tests immediately if the FAA gives approval.
Walmart’s FAA request includes the following test plans:
- Using drones to deliver merchandise packages from a retail facility to an area of a Walmart parking lot where the packages could be accessed by a customer, per the FAA request.
- Drones delivering to customers in small residential areas.
- Performing surveillance of company facilities including buildings and parking lots.
Walmart’s filing with the FAA stipulates that the tests conducted in small residential neighborhoods would involve the “express, written permission” of every property owner along the drone flight paths. The petition states that the company’s distribution system “could become more efficient and consumers could be better served” with the assistance of drone testing.
Per the requirements of such exemptions, the drone models must be specified in the filing. Walmart intends to use drones made by DJI. This Chinese company is one of three of the of the larger drone companies worldwide, alongside Delair Tech and Parrot. There is some urgency to learning and using drones responsibly. The FAA missed a September 2015 deadline for creating a regulatory framework for commercial drones, tentatively pushing it back to 2016, per executive director of the Small UAV Coalition, Michael Drobac.