History made: Walgreens takes off with first drone delivery

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History made: Walgreens takes off with first drone delivery

By Dan Berthiaume - 10/18/2019

Walgreens is officially in flight with a pilot of on-demand drone deliveries in Virginia.

As of Oct. 18, 2019, the drugstore giant is live with a trial of “store to door” delivery of health and wellness, food and beverage and convenience items via drone delivery in Christianburg, Va. (Prescription deliveries are not available in the pilot.) The very first drone-based delivery from Walgreens went to local residents Michael and Kelly Collver, who received a cough and cold pack including Tylenol, Halls cough drops, tissues, Emergen-C and bottled water.

Walgreens is conducting the pilot in partnership with Wing Aviation, a subsidiary of Google parent company Alphabet. Launch of the pilot makes Walgreens the first retailer to offer on-demand drone delivery service in the U.S. The companies are running the test in conjunction with FedEx in Christiansburg, Va. 

Eligible FedEx Express customers who live within designated delivery zones in Christiansburg, and who opt in to the Wing delivery service, can receive select packages via delivery drone. The location has been selected as the test market because Wing has been working with Virginia Tech in nearby Blacksburg, Va. to test drone delivery as part of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s integration pilot program since 2016. 

Eligible customers in the Christiansburg area have access to more than 100 products and six pre-built “packs” of items via the Wing app. Customers can either choose the individual products they need or choose one of the pre-built packs in the following categories: allergy, baby, cough/cold, first aid, pain, and kids’ snacks

Wing received certification as a small airline from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in April 2019, allowing the company to charge money to perform actual drone-based deliveries to consumers.

“Today is a great day for the future of consumer convenience.  We are excited to be the first U.S. retailer to provide on-demand drone delivery to customers in the Christiansburg community,” said Vish Sankaran, chief innovation officer, Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. “This industry-first drone delivery pilot with Wing expands our omnichannel offerings to provide customers the products they need wherever, whenever and however they may want them.”