The retailer has announced it will expand its DroneUp delivery network to 34 sites by the end of this year, with the potential to reach 4 million U.S. households across Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Texas, Utah and Virginia. Walmart says the expansion could allow them to deliver over 1 million packages by drone in a year.
Between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., Walmart customers can choose from tens of thousands of eligible items, including Tylenol, diapers and hot dog buns, for delivery by air in as little as 30 minutes. Customers can receive up to 10 pounds worth of items in each drone order and will be charged a $3.99 delivery fee.
"We continue to expand our delivery operations to help customers get the items they need when they need them, and it’s been an exciting journey," David Guggina, Walmart U.S. senior vice president of innovation and automation, said in a blog post on Tuesday. "From Express delivery, where customers can have items delivered to their doorsteps in as little as two hours, to InHome, where they can get those orders placed right into their refrigerators, we’re proud to offer customers multiple options that help them save time and money."
Participating Walmart stores will house a DroneUp delivery hub, including a team of certified pilots who will manage the drone deliveries while operating within Federal Aviation Administration guidelines.
After customers place a drone delivery order through DroneUp's website, the items will be fulfilled at the store, packaged, loaded into the drone and dropped off in their yard using a cable that gently lowers the package.
In addition to Walmart packages, DroneUp will offer its services to local businesses and municipalities in areas including insurance, emergency response and real estate. The move will help offset the cost of the deliveries as well as gather flight data to help the drone industry improve its operations.
Walmart first partnered with DroneUp in 2020 to launch trial deliveries of at-home COVID-19 self-collection kits. Though the company initially expected that the service would be mainly used for emergency items, Guggina said it has been used by many customers for convenience, with the top-selling item at one participating location being Hamburger Helper.
In addition, the company also launched drone partnerships in 2020 with Zipline for deliveries of select health and wellness products and Flytex for deliveries of groceries and household essentials.
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Walmart isn't the only company looking to make a foray into drone delivery.
FedEx has announced plans to begin testing autonomous delivery in 2023 through a partnership with Elroy Air. The shipping giant previously launched a drone delivery pilot program with Alphabet's Wing in 2019. Wing went on to launch its own partnership with Walgreens in Virginia that same year.