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05/24/2022

Walmart expanding drone delivery to reach 4 million households

Marianne Wilson
Editor-in-Chief
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Walmart is expanding its drone-delivery service with DroneUp.

Walmart isn’t letting any of its competitors get the jump on it when it comes to last-mile delivery solutions.

The retail giant is expanding its drone delivery service with operator DroneUp to 34 sites by the end of the year. The expansion will give Walmart the potential to reach 4 million U.S. householdsacross six states — Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Texas, Utah and Virginia — and the ability to deliver more than 1 million packages by drone in a year. 

From 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., customers who live within the range of a Walmart drone-delivery site can order from thousands of items, ranging from Tylenol to hot dog buns, for delivery by air in as little as 30 minutes. (The total order cannot exceed 10 pounds.) Each drone delivery comes with a $3.99 fee.  

The participating Walmart stores will house a DroneUp delivery hub that includes a team of certified pilots that will manage flight operations for deliveriesOnce a customer places an order, the item is fulfilled from the store, packaged and loaded into the drone. The drone is then flown remotely by the pilot to the customer’s yard or driveway. A cable on the drone lowers the package.

Walmart made an unspecified investment in DroneUp in June 2021. The company currently offers drone deliveries from several stores near its headquarters in northwest Arkansas and in North Carolina. Most recently, the Kroger Co. began a drone-delivery pilot.

[Read More: Kroger enters Walmart, Amazon airspace with drone pilot]

“After completing hundreds of deliveries within a matter of months across our existing DroneUp hubs, we’ve seen firsthand how drones can offer customers a practical solution for getting certain items, fast,” David Guggina, senior VP of innovation and automation, Walmart U.S., wrote in a blog on the company’s website. “More importantly, we’ve seen a positive response from our customers that have used the service.”

The retailer initially thought that customers would use the service for emergency items. Instead, many are using it for convenience. At one store, for example, the top-selling item is Hamburger Helper.

Guggina added that as Walmart scales its drone infrastructure, it will continue to influence the expansion of drone technology and enable other businesses to explore its benefits also.

“This means DroneUp will offer local businesses and municipalities aerial drone solutions in areas like insurance, emergency response and real estate,” he explained. “For example, a local construction agency can work with DroneUp to monitor on-site job progress through aerial drone photography.”

Orders must be placed on DroneUp’s website or through the websites of the two other operators. Walmart said it plans to eventually add the order-placing capability to its own website and app.