Walmart is following up on a June investment it made into a drone technology and services company.
The discount giant is partnering with DroneUp LLC to launch drone delivery operations at three stores in Northwest Arkansas. One store, located in Farmington, Ark, is currently offering drone delivery to eligible customers. The other two stores, in Rogers and Bentonville, Ark., are planned to launch in the coming months. The three stores will deliver items by drone in as little as 30 minutes seven days per week, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. Walmart followed up on a pilot it ran with DroneUp in fall 2020 to deliver at-home COVID-19 self-collection kits via drone by making an unspecified investment in the company in June 2021.
“When we invested in DroneUp earlier this year, we envisioned a drone delivery operation that could be quickly executed and replicated across multiple stores,” said Tom Ward, senior VP of last mile at Walmart U.S. “Opening our first hub within months of our initial concept showcases DroneUp’s ability to safely execute drone delivery operations with speed. We’re already hearing great customer feedback at our first site in Farmington, and look forward to opening additional locations.”
To place a DroneUp Walmart delivery order, customers enter their address on the DroneUp site to verify eligibility, and can then select from thousands of items for delivery. Operators pack the order and secure the box to the drone using a patented delivery release mechanism. A flight engineer manages a controlled and guided delivery, placing the order at the customer’s home.
Walmart already has a significant part of the drone delivery infrastructure in place – 4,700 stores stocked with more than 100,000 of the most-purchased items, located within 10 miles of 90% of the U.S. population. DroneUp’s airport “hubs” house on-site operations where FAA-certified flight engineers can conduct multiple and simultaneous deliveries.
Walmart is continuing to increase the number of drone delivery pilots and programs it launches. The retailer just commenced a drone-based instant delivery service at a Neighborhood Market store in Pea Ridge, Ark, in partnership with carbon-free drone provider, Zipline.
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.
“Teaming up with Walmart to launch three delivery hubs marks a significant leap forward in the broader use of unmanned aircraft systems to provide last-mile consumer delivery services and supply chain efficiency options,” said Tom Walker, CEO, DroneUp. “Walmart and DroneUp provide an unrivaled ability to pick, pack, and deliver via drones directly from the store to consumers offering efficiencies no other retailer can match. We are proud of our team’s ability to deliver the technology helping Walmart launch a new era of commercial drone operations.”