Walmart testing drones for inventory purposes

Walmart testing drones for inventory purposes


The American supermarket giant, Walmart, with its superstores right across North America, announced yesterday that it was testing a system of drones within its warehouses in an attempt to help manage stocks and inventory.


If the result of the trial is deemed positive, the solution could be extended to all Walmart distribution centres over the next 6 to 9 months.


The trial consisted of a drone which flew through the warehouse, providing real-time images, and flagging items that were stored in the wrong place. Walmart claim that this solution could allow them to reduce their inventory time from about a month to just two days. In addition to the time saved in the process, the ensuing cost savings are also likely to be highly significant. Currently, Walmart’s employees scan packages manually while standing on lifts which move up and down the racks.


The images recorded by the drones are sent to a “control tower” where employees can view the images and issue a warning when a package is marked as being in the wrong place, so that the warehouse employees can subsequently solve the problem.


The Walmart group have developed this technology themselves and are the sole owner of the technology. These trials would appear to be the group’s attempt to rival the development of drone-based solutions created by another US retail giant, Amazon.


Amazon announced last December that they had developed a solution that would allow them to offer same day delivery for packages of 2 or 3 kilos maximum to their customers via drones in 30 minutes or less.


At the time of publication, the FAA, the US authority in charge of flight regulations, has not approved commercial drone flights but Amazon has obtained permission to fly drones for the purpose of carrying out research.


Although we may have to wait a while for such solutions to be readily available this side of the Atlantic, Walmart’s initiative shows how drone technology, which has been experiencing strong growth for several years, especially with the arrival of affordable models onto the general market, could change the face of logistics in the future.