A new era in Walmart’s last-mile delivery operations begins this week.
On Thursday, July 21, Walmart and drone operator DroneUp are formally kicking off their delivery partnership in a public event hosted at a Walmart store in Arkansas. This showcase will serve as an open house to formally launch DroneUp's flight services such as inspection, mapping and aerial imaging in the Northwest Arkansas market. The event will highlight all three hub locations operating from Walmart's store with drone demos.
Walmart made an unspecified investment in DroneUp, a Virginia-based drone technology company that combines airspace solutions, software applications and analytics platforms, in June 2021. The discount giant currently offers drone deliveries from several stores near its headquarters in northwest Arkansas and in North Carolina.
Walmart drone delivery takes flight
Walmart is expanding its drone delivery service with DroneUp to 34 sites by the end of the year. The expansion will give Walmart the potential to reach 4 million U.S. households across 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 deliveries. Once 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.
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.
“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., previously 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 in his blog post that as Walmart scales its drone infrastructure, the company will continue to influence the expansion of drone technology and enable other businesses to explore its benefits as well.
Walmart Inc. operates more than 10,500 stores and clubs under 46 banners in 24 countries and e-commerce websites.