The regional supermarket chain announced it is launching a "drone delivery pilot" this spring in two Ohio cities: Cincinnati and Monroe. According to a company release, the autonomous drones will be manufactured by Drone Express, a local delivery business under TELEGRID Technologies, Inc.
Through Kroger’s pilot program, residents in Cincinnati and Monroe will be able to place online orders on kroger.com/dronedelivery and have their packages delivered straight to their smartphone’s geolocation. This feature will reportedly help customers to get supplies while they are outside and don’t have an exact address to provide, whether it be a park, beach or yard.
At this point in time, Drone Express drones can carry packages that are around five pounds. Customers who are ordering small items that don’t exceed this weight limit should not have an issue in receiving their orders. Kroger’s company release lists baby care supplies, over-the-counter medications and s’mores kits as examples for customers who are trying to get eligible drone deliveries.
Kroger says the drones will be able to deliver goods "within as little as 15 minutes."
"Kroger's new drone delivery pilot is part of the evolution of our rapidly growing and innovative e-commerce business – which includes pickup, delivery, and ship and reached more than $10 billion in sales in 2020," Kroger's Group Vice President of Product experience Jody Kalmbach said, in a statement.
"The pilot reinforces the importance of flexibility and immediacy to customers, powered by modern, cost-effective, and efficient last-mile solutions," Kalmbach added. "We're excited to test drone delivery and gain insights that will inform expansion plans as well as future customer solutions."
Test flights will be conducted in early May by Drone Express. The launch site will be near the Kroger Marketplace in Centerville, Ohio – located at 1095 South Main Street.
A second pilot is said to be scheduled for summer at Kroger’s subsidiary Ralphs, a supermarket chain that operates in Sothern California.
While drone delivery seems to be the latest tech innovation Kroger is exploring, the company has been building up autonomous systems to help with online demand.
In July 2020, Kroger began building a distribution center in Frederick, Md. that reportedly uses "advanced robotics" to fulfill online orders for those who live in the Washington, D.C. metro area. The autonomous system developed by the British tech company Ocado Solutions allows robotic packers to sort and prepare grocery orders with minimal human interaction.