Walmart expands drone delivery programme to reach 4 million households

·2 min read
An image released by Walmart of one of its drones (Walmart)
An image released by Walmart of one of its drones (Walmart)

Six more states will soon see Walmart drones in the skies above after the retail chain announced plans to expand its DroneUp delivery programme.

Customers in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Texas, Utah and Virginia will be those to benefit from the DroneUp expansion announced on Tuesday by Walmart.

The supermarket currently offers drone deliveries on selected items from stores near its headquarters in northwest Arkansas and North Carolina.

Now, 4 million households will be able to order packages by drone a year from 37 locations, a majority of which will be operated by Walmart’s technology partner DroneUp.

Walmart announced a partnership with three technology firms – Flytrex, Zipline and DroneUp — two years ago as a way to ship Covid-19 testing kits and essential items to customers during the pandemic.

The company said in a press release that it expects 1 million packages to be ordered via drone in the next year, after a successful trial which surprised supermarket bosses.

“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,” Walmart said.

While the company predicted most customers would use drone deliveries for emergency items, including Covid-19 testing kits, Walmart found that many “use it for its sheer convenience, like a quick fix for a weeknight meal.”

The most popular item ordered by drone at one location is reportedly a hamburger meal kit, Walmart said.

Customers can make drone orders between 8am and 8pm and thousands of items are eligible with a  $3.99 delivery fee. The drones are flown by trained “pilots” who lower the goods onto a customer’s property.

Other companies including Amazon have also tried drone deliveries, although the company’s Prime Air programme has not taken off either in the US or UK, where the first drone package was made in 2016 in Cambridge, according to The Verge.