Retail giant Walmart plans to expand trials its drone delivery program to 4 million households across six U.S. states, building on its lead over rival Amazon.
For a small fee of $3.99, residents in 34 different sites will be able to order by the end of this year up to 10 pounds worth of goods delivered right to their yard with the help of a cable that gently lowers the package down from the hovering machine.
“Customers will be able to order from tens of thousands of eligible items, such as Tylenol, diapers and hot dog buns, for delivery by air in as little as 30 minutes,” it said in a statement on Tuesday. “Simply put, if it fits safely, it flies.”
Where will it fly to?
The trial, in conjunction with industry partner DroneUp, expands the service into new areas in Arizona (Phoenix), Florida (Tampa and Orlando), Texas (Dallas), Utah (Salt Lake City) and Virginia (Richmond) and would enable over 1 million packages to arrive by drone in a year.
A limited droner delivery service was already available in Arkansas.
Walmart first partnered with DroneUp in September 2020 to deliver self-administered COVID testing kits, and said it was surprised by the reception its trial service received when it was first expanded in last November.
“While we initially thought customers would use the service for emergency items, we’re finding they use it for its sheer convenience, like a quick fix for a weeknight meal,” it said on Tuesday. “Case in point: The top-selling item at one of our current hubs is Hamburger Helper.”
Walmart said DroneUp would also seek to find other applications where it can earn money, including offering local businesses and municipalities aerial drone services in areas like insurance, emergency response and real estate.
“Not only will the added revenue help offset the cost of delivery, but it also serves the entire drone industry by gathering more flight data as we work together to expand drone operations in a safe and regulated way,“ Walmart said.
Troubles at Amazon’s Prime air
The Bentonville, Arkansas-based company was so impressed with the performance of DroneUp, it decided to invest directly in the company back in June of last year with the goal of developing a scalable last-mile delivery solution.
Walmart is just one of the various corporations launching drone trials. Alphabet’s Wing, United Parcel Service’s Flight Forward unit and, most famously, Amazon are all hoping to role out economically viable delivery programs.
Jeff Bezos’s e-commerce giant has reportedly been struggling of late with its goal of safely delivering packages to customers in 30 minutes or less.
According to an article published last month by Bloomberg, its efforts have caught the attention of the Federal Aviation Administration, which filed a report following a June 2021 crash that triggered a blaze scorching 25 acres of land.
“Instead of a controlled descent to a safe landing, (the drone) dropped about 160 feet in an uncontrolled vertical fall and was consumed by fire,” the FAA concluded.
The Prime Air team got the green light from the authorities to start commercial drone delivery in the U.S. in 2020, but it has yet to commence operations.
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