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11/18/2021

Walmart expands drone use with instant delivery from Arkansas store

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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walmart delivery box
Walmart continues growing its usage of delivery drones.

Walmart is slowly but surely increasing the number of drone delivery pilots and programs it launches.

The discount giant’s latest program utilizing drone technology is an instant delivery service offered at a Neighborhood Market store in Pea Ridge, Ark. Offered in partnership with Zipline, the new service makes on-demand deliveries of select health and wellness and consumable items. 

Initially announced in September 2020, the service leverages Zipline’s proprietary technology, which enables quick on-demand delivery in under an hour and eliminates carbon emissions. If the project proves successful, Walmart has said it will look to expand it to other areas of the country.

To support the drone delivery service, Walmart and Zipline have built a 25-foot platform that serves as the infrastructure for take-off and landing. The platform, which is located directly behind the store, houses several of Zipline’s proprietary autonomous aircraft as well as its flight operations crew. At full capacity, Zipline’s aircraft can service a 50-mile radius.

Eligible customers can place orders for drone delivery by opening the Zipline app, ordering the products they would like delivered, and selecting a delivery time at checkout. A Walmart associate picks and packs the products and hands the package off to Zipline staff, who prepare the aircraft for launch.

The drone then departs to the customer’s home, drops the package and returns to the platform. The customer can track the status of the aircraft through the Zipline app.

In January 2021, Walmart teamed up with Coca-Cola to promote the nationwide rollout of the Coca-Cola with Coffee and debut of the new Coca-Cola with Coffee Zero Sugar beverages, by making drone-based delivery of the products available to select consumers in Coffee County, Ga., utilizing the nationwide drone services provider DroneUp.

In September 2020, the retailer partnered with Quest Diagnostics and DroneUp to pilot drone delivery of at-home COVID-19 self-collection kits, and also kicked off a pilot with end-to-end drone delivery company Flytrex to deliver select grocery and household essentials from its stores using automated drones. Walmart also put on a 2020 holiday light show in the skies of select communities with the help of nearly 1,000 Intel drones

“Zipline’s autonomous aircraft present an incredible opportunity to offer customers an on-demand delivery option for the items they need now, such as a thermometer, non-prescription medication or an emergency pack of diapers,” said Tom Ward, senior VP, last-mile delivery, Walmart U.S. “Even more, Zipline’s aircraft can help provide immediate access to needed items for both hard-to-reach and at-risk populations, such as rural communities and elderly customers. By bringing this game-changing technology to the rural community of Pea Ridge, Arkansas, we’re continuing to look for ways to make shopping with Walmart convenient and easy – for everyone.”

“We’ve seen firsthand the impact that instant logistics can have in making important, even life-saving products, available on a moment’s notice,” said Keller Rinaudo, co-founder and CEO of Zipline. “At the same time, the past two years have proven the need to bring health products closer to home, where they are more accessible. Working with Walmart, we’re able to bring this type of service to Northwest Arkansas, showcasing what the future of health access looks like.” 

Walmart operates approximately 10,500 stores and clubs under 48 banners in 24 countries and e-commerce websites. Zipline began operating in 2016 and has completed over 200,000 commercial deliveries of over 4.5 million units of medical supplies, serving more than 20 million people across multiple countries.