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Wal-Mart pushes delivery drones

By Beth Meyer
On November 20, 2015

Amazon and Google are both in the process of testing and attempting to legalize delivery drones in order to accelerate the home delivery process for its consumers. Wal-Mart has recently announced its plans to do the same. 

Delivery drones are small, unmanned, eight-rotor helicopters that use Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation to find their delivery destinations. 

These commercial drones are not yet fully legal in the United States and studies show that the majority of Americans are not comfortable with the drones making home deliveries. 

Despite considerable public displeasure with the idea, however, several companies are working to legalize the drones. 

Wal-Mart is hoping to use drones for delivery of merchandise to consumers’ homes, and also to help older consumers get their groceries to the parking lot, distribute products to warehouses and stores and check on its own various warehouses in a cheaper, easier way. 

Amazon and Google both have a head start over Wal-Mart, having started working with drones relatively earlier, but with 70 percent of Americans living within five miles of a Wal-Mart, compared with Amazon’s sparse physical locations, Wal-Mart may soon have the advantage. 

Wal-Mart has already applied to the Federal Aviation Administration to be able to test drones in the air, rather than testing them indoors, like it had previously been doing. 

However, Wal-Mart has some significant obstacles to overcome if it wants to use drones on a large scale. For one thing, these drones may not have the capacity to fly for an extended amount of time. 

Lithium, the batteries used by drones, may only allow them to fly between 20 and 30 minutes at a time. These drones are also light and may not be able to transport larger items. 

Another possible issue is consumers not wanting the delivery system at all. Amazon is hoping to use the drones for same-day delivery, increasing already convenient service.

However, Wal-Mart consumers can drive, in many cases, in 10 minutes or less to their nearest store and buy the product they want without using a delivery service. Consumers can already get instant gratification without paying extra for delivery. 

Although drones might make distribution and work in warehouses more efficient, it is possible that they may not change Wal-Mart’s consumer shopping experience very much at all. 

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