On Monday morning, Walmart filed a request with the FAA to begin testing drones for delivery purposes both at customer homes and the retail giant’s individual stores.
This makes Walmart the latest entry onto the list of companies interested in delivery drones which is headlined by Amazon and Google.
What makes Walmart different though, is the fact that the company has no apparent interest in developing its own proprietary drones à la Amazon’s Prime Air or Google’s Project Wing. Instead, Walmart is asking the FAA to use drones developed by market leader DJI, specifically the Phantom 3 and the S900.
Whether or not Walmart can implement drones into their business, the fact that DJI was called out specifically is an important detail.
DJI’s drones are about to come under very strict scrutiny from the federal government. Last week, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta announced a registration requirement for all Unmanned Aircraft and a task force to develop recommendations for the registration process by November 20.
On top of coming up with a process for registering drones, this requirement will also force the government to officially decide which aircraft are considered ‘drones’ and will therefore have to be registered.
DJI’s Phantom drones are the most popular models among the prosumer demographic and make up 66% of the exemptions for commercial flights the FAA has received. So you can bet they will at least be discussed heavily in the coming month, if not used to set the standard for what a drone is.
Whenever we hear a story about a wayward drone crashing or taking someone’s picture against their will, it is usually a Phantom so it would come as no surprise if the government required all of DJI’s flagship UAVs to be registered and then used them as the gauge for whether a future model would need to be registered.
This works in Walmart’s favor because the FAA is going to be more apt to allow a company to use a drone it is familiar with rather than a brand new piece of hardware.
So, when Walmart gets approval to use DJI’s drones, they will be using a model that both flies reliably and has earned the trust of the FAA.
Walmart’s choice of DJI drones is also important because DJI has never claimed to be anything more than a flying camera, but at the same time has become the brand of choice for drone enthusiasts.
If DJI were to begin developing, or at least optimizing, drones for delivery purposes they could quickly emerge as the delivery drone company -especially with the backing of a major player like Walmart.
Of course, there is no official partnership between DJI and Walmart at this time, and it will take some time to get the application approved but if Walmart can demonstrate they are serious about using drones, perhaps such a partnership could force Amazon into a race to be the first drone to your doorstep.
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com