Drones

Walmart seeks permission to start testing delivery drones

Walmart plants to begin testing DJI's drones for delivery and other purposes
Walmart plants to begin testing DJI's drones for delivery and other purposes
View 1 Image
Walmart plants to begin testing DJI's drones for delivery and other purposes
1/1
Walmart plants to begin testing DJI's drones for delivery and other purposes

If you buy something from one of America's retail giants sometime in the future, there's a growing chance a drone will be dropping it at your door. Joining Amazon in the race to get robotic couriers into the sky, Walmart has applied for permission to begin testing drones for home delivery, according to a report from Reuters.

Walmart has already been testing drones indoors for a number of months, but is now looking to branch out and explore the technology's potential beyond its warehouse walls. In addition to checking inventories inside and outside its facilities, the company has applied to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for permission to test drones for home deliveries and curb-side pickups.

Using drones made by Chinese manufacturer DJI, the testing would be to ascertain whether a drone can safely be deployed from a truck to deliver a package to a home, before returning to its take-off point. The company would first gain permission from residents of small neighborhoods along the flight path as part of its plan to test the drone delivery waters.

Walmart's application to the FAA is under review, with the agency to determine whether it fits the criteria for its fast-tracked exemption process. As it stands, drone flight for commercial purposes is illegal in the US, though the FAA is redrafting rules that cater to the burgeoning industry, with new guidelines expected next year.

Source: Reuters

9 comments
Erg
I really dislike this idea. Its all fun and games until someone gets hurt. Get out of the truck, walk 10 meters to the door, place package and return to truck.
Daishi
@Erg I am not entirely sure the drone is more dangerous than the truck. You also have the freedom to enclose the drone in a wire sphere and it will still fly. I also saw a cool concept that sandwiched in the blades of a drone with a mesh screen like you would a fan that would prevent you from touching the blades even with your finger or a stick. The blades are the only thing really moving fast enough to cause real harm and they could be guarded just like a house fan pretty much. The tech is improving quickly and there is a lot of potential for all the mobile R&D to carry over to drones for cheaper/better computers, GPS, sensors, gyroscopes, radios etc. Robotics should eventually see the same thing. A tablet or a mobile phone has pretty much all the intelligence a robot needs to navigate an environment autonomously. It's hard to wrap my head around exactly how useful this would be but picture ordering groceries from your kitchen, having a bunch of Kiva robots bring what you need to a guy throwing it in a box. Then he throws it on a conveyer belt where a quadcopter brings it to your house within ~10 minutes. Line the box with something and throw in a small amount of dry ice and you could even order frozen foods and perishables while stuck in traffic and it would be there when you pull in the driveway from work. It would take less time to have it packed and shipped than to walk around the store and buy it because of the Kiva system. This is also great if you are elderly or a student or something and don't have transportation. With UPS/Fedex etc. you are mostly on their deliver schedule and you do stuff on the order of days instead of hours and minutes. If your kids are going to a birthday party you could order a gift and check the box for "gift wrap" and it would show up before you get the kids out the door instead of having to go to Walmart etc. on the way to the birthday party. Instant delivery via drone would also be cheaper than standard shipping. Those are a couple uses for the tech, I am sure there are others I'm not thinking of.
Mel Tisdale
I think the people at Wal-Mart, and also at Amazon, who are also experimenting in this form of delivery, need to read Nassim Nicholas Taleb's book The Black Swan. I know it would put me off ever considering such methods were I ever to consider taking such a danger to humans and animals alike within striking distance of the public and their pets (re. Erg's comment, above). I suppose that if it is ever adopted, it will give pranksters a lot of pleasure as they devise ways to down them with jamming signals and even hi-jack them, if possible.
gizmowiz
Can I sue Walmart when it's drones knock my expensive kite out of the air, or when my kids are hit by one and hurt, or when it kills birds by the thousands, or or or. Drones are silly which the air will become saturated with these things in a short time and legislation will have to be drawn up to limit their use to the military.
Bob Flint
Legislation, legalities, liabilities, weather, to name a few hurtles to overcome. Cost and weight restrictions, limited flying time are a few more. Sending out a drone for a single $5 item in a $500 dollar drone, operated by either a human (minimum wage), or a multi-thousand dollar computerized system. Were is the return on investment? Millions flock to Wal-Mart schlep their own stuff home in bulging carts, and that cost's nothing but the parking lot, lighting, and maintenance. Does this make sense?
Fairly Reasoner
Oh, just stop. You too, Amazon.
Ardis Lille
What will happen if I'm not home to receive the delivery, or I want to refuse a damaged package? Some apartment building landlords have banned home deliveries because too many residents are not home to receive packages.
michael_dowling
Why not make deliveries using electric trucks? Slower,but environmentally friendly.
AliciaRussell
Hundreds, maybe thousands of kids/pets have been killed by unfortunate accidents involving delivery/mail trucks. It's the price we have chosen to pay to live in this mechanized society and for the convenience of having goods (or in the case of mentioned here, cheap Chinese crap) delivered to our door. I don't know about you, but if I ever get hit, I hope it will be by the 10 pound quad-copter drone, rather than by the 3 ton delivery truck.............. but that's just me. To date, 0 (zero) people have been killed by quad-copters.