Wal-Mart Could Be Six to Nine Months from Using Drones to Check Warehouse Inventory

The drones reduce the process of checking inventory to one day; it currently takes a month to finish manually

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Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said it was six to nine months from beginning to use drones to check warehouse inventories in the United States, taking a step closer to using the technology to compete better with rivals.

In October 2015, the world's largest retailer applied to U.S. 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.

The remotely controlled drone demonstrated to reporters captured 30 frames per second of products on aisles and alerted the user when product ran out or was incorrectly stocked. Wal-Mart's vice president of last mile and emerging sciences, Shekar Natarajan, said drones can reduce the labor-intensive process of checking stocks around the warehouse to one day. It currently takes a month to finish manually.

Finding ways to more efficiently warehouse, transport and deliver goods to customers has taken on new importance for Wal-Mart as it deals with wages costs, while seeking to beat back price competition and boost online sales.

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