If the world's skies eventually fill with delivery drones, they'll probably first belong to the big box stores. Reuters reports that Walmart has applied for permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to test drones for several purposes, including home delivery, grocery pickup, and warehouse inventory management. Reuters says Walmart has already been testing drones indoors for months, and that it plans to use vehicles built by DJI: the manufacturer of the popular Phantom line of consumer drones.
Walmart will join other big companies testing drones for commercial purposes. Its biggest competitor in the skies is probably Amazon, which led the push to relax FAA drone rules earlier this year by pressuring the government and threatening to take its operations overseas. Amazon finally received permission to test delivery drones outdoors in March, but still claims the government isn't moving fast enough. Google is also testing drone designs, and while its ambitions are still secret, it also appears to be working on machines that can make deliveries.
Walmart suggests its own drone project isn't just a hobby. "Drones have a lot of potential to further connect our vast network of stores, distribution centers, fulfillment centers, and transportation fleet," spokesperson Dan Toporek told Reuters. "There is a Walmart within five miles of 70 percent of the US population, which creates some unique and interesting possibilities for serving customers with drones." It's still early days, but it looks like there will be plenty of competition for space in the futuristic drone superhighway that some of the world's largest companies are imagining.