Walmart drone delivery plan includes millions of customers

Walmart first announced its interest in drone delivery five years ago. Since then, it has conducted a number of pilot projects, the most recent near its headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Now poised to move forward, Walmart just announced it plans to expand its drone network to 34 new locations by the end of the year, with a number of Walmart stores in Arizona, Florida, Texas, Utah and Virginia. .

Walmart has partnered with Virginia-based drone delivery specialist DroneUp to build out its airborne delivery platform.

The retail giant said the move has the potential to reach four million U.S. homes in its new locations and deliver as many as one million packages by drone annually. However, since the plane only flies to customer addresses up to 1.5 miles from each store, it could take some time for those numbers to be fully realized.

Eligible customers to participate in the pilot project will be able to use a mobile app to order from a list of “tens of thousands” of items between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., with delivery guaranteed within 30 minutes of clicking “buy”. knob. The total weight of the package must be less than 10 pounds and a delivery fee of $3.99 will be charged.

An ordered item is loaded into the drone at the store’s hub and shipped en route. Upon reaching the customer’s address, the drone will use a cable to lower the item into their yard or nearby spot to collect it.

“After completing hundreds of deliveries within a few months at our existing DroneUp hubs, we have seen firsthand how drones can provide customers with a practical solution to get certain items quickly,” Walmart said in a release.

It added that while it was initially thought customers would use the drone delivery service for emergency items, it has been discovered that people are also using it for more general items because of the “pure convenience” of the fast service.

Walmart stores selected for drone deliveries will build a DroneUp hub run by a team of certified pilots who operate under FAA guidelines to ensure safe flights. This means that, unlike competing drone delivery platforms being developed by the likes of Alphabet’s Wing and e-commerce giant Amazon, Walmart’s delivery flights are not autonomous and so must be within sight of the pilot at all times.

This explains why drones can fly just 2.5 miles from a participating Walmart store, severely impacting the scope of the service. Longer-range autonomous drone flights are limited by additional FAA safety regulations, meaning it could be some time before such long-haul services are rolled out more widely. Custom Hour has reached out to Walmart to learn more about its plans for autonomous drone flights, and we’ll update this article when we hear back.

As part of wider plans, Walmart said DroneUp will also offer local businesses and organizations other drone services that could include everything from aerial photography for construction sites to emergency flight operations.

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