Walgreens tests drone delivery in Virginia

The skies over Christiansburg, Virginia, witnessed the first trial of Walgreens’ drone delivery on Friday.

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"[Walgreens] will offer quick, convenient delivery of some of [their] most sought-after health and wellness, food and beverage, convenience items," Walgreens said in a statement.

The pharmacy partnered with Wing, a subsidiary of Google parent company Alphabet for the program.

"Wing's collaborators on this service — FedEx Express, Walgreens, and local Virginia retailer Sugar Magnolia — are the first businesses in the United States to offer this form of local air delivery to customers," according to the Wing website.

Photo: Walgreens

Walgreens customers utilizing the drone service during the trial can order their products of choice via the Wing mobile app. Once ordered, Wing employees load products into specialized packaging, a drone arrives from its launch site to pick up the package, and from there proceeds to the delivery location, according to Walgreens.

Wing’s drones fly at 70 mph and can carry a 3.3-pound package a range of 12 miles round trip, according to the company. The manufacturer said, “onboard software helps the aircraft understand its surroundings, process information, and even monitor its own health and performance in real-time.”

Walgreens says “drones automatically map the safest route from the Wing test site to the customer using Wing’s unmanned traffic management system.” These routes take into account regulatory restrictions, other Wing drone locations, and obstacles between takeoff and delivery sites.

“[Once arrived at its delivery site] the drone switches to hover mode and descends to delivery height, approximately 23 feet above the ground. The drone then lowers its tether and automatically releases the Walgreens package,” explains the Walgreens.

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During the trial period, no additional cost will be charged for airborne delivery.