Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is testing drones that it says will help it manage its warehouse inventory more efficiently, and which it said Thursday could be rolled out in the next six to nine months across its distribution centers.
The move is another sign of how the nation’s largest retailer is seeking to compete against online leader Amazon.com, which is testing drones to deliver packages.
During a media tour Thursday at a distribution center, Wal-Mart offered a peek at a drone that flies around the massive center, captures images in real time and flags the misplaced items.
Wal-Mart says using the drones enables it to check inventory in about a day or less, instead of a month that it takes manually.
Right now, employees stand on lifts that go up and down the stacks, and scan items to make sure that boxes are in the right place.
Shekar Natarajan, Wal-Mart’s vice president of logistics strategy, told reporters the technology is custom-built on top of the drone and is proprietary for Wal-Mart. A control tower will oversee the images on a screen and will send alerts when items are flagged so that workers can go back to the stacks to fix the issue.