Walmart, the country’s largest retailer, is testing the use of flying drones to handle inventory at its large warehouses, which supply the thousands of Walmart stores throughout the nation.
In coming six to nine months the machines may be used in one or more of its distribution centers, taking a step closer to using the technology to compete better with rivals.
In October 2015, the world’s largest retailer applied to US regulators for permission to test drones for home delivery, curbside pickup and checking warehouse inventories as it planned to use drones to fill and deliver online orders. Federal regulators are still considering rules for commercial operation of drones that would be involved in package delivery – viewed as the next frontier for big retailers such as Walmart and Amazon Inc.
Walmart workers now manually scan pallets of goods with hand-held scanning devices. The drone’s methodical, vertical movements would essentially mimic the path of a person in a forklift who might be inspecting labels and inventory.
Walmart operates 190 distribution centers in the United States, and each one services 100 to 150 stores. Millions of items can move through the centers each week and onto a fleet that includes 6,500 trucks and 8,000 drivers to move merchandise throughout the United States.