Walmart expands drone delivery to meet the holiday rush

The retail giant’s partnership with DroneUp, which it invested in last year, now extends to stores in Phoenix, Dallas, Tampa and Orlando.
Walmart drone delivery
Walmart is expanding its drone delivery program. / Photo courtesy: Walmart

Walmart is doubling down on drone delivery in the frenzied shopping days before the holidays.

Walmart drone delivery through its DroneUp network is now available in parts of Phoenix, the Dallas area, Tampa and Orlando, the retail giant said Thursday.

In June 2021, Walmart announced an investment in Virginia Beach, Virginia-based DroneUp as the company looked to expand its last-mile delivery services. The investment followed the retailer’s pilot program with the drone company, an initial delivery of COVID tests to customers in North Las Vegas.

Walmart on Thursday said drones can deliver things like last-minute meal solutions to a package of Christmas cookies.

“Drone delivery makes it possible for our customers to shop those last-minute or forgotten items with ease, in a package that’s frankly really cool. Being on the forefront of that innovation at Walmart is something we’re proud of,” said Vik Gopalakrishnan, vice president of innovation and automation at Walmart U.S., in a statement. “It may seem like a futuristic option, but it’s giving our customers what they’ve always wanted, and that’s time back to focus on what is most important to them.”

As part of the latest DroneUp expansion, the delivery service will now be available from four stores in the Phoenix market, 11 stores in the Dallas area, and seven stores in Tampa and Orlando.

The moves are part of Walmart’s announcement in May that the company intended to expand its DroneUp delivery network to 34 sites  in 23 cities by the end of the year, with the potential to reach 4 million households in six states, including Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Texas, Utah and Virginia. Walmart said it would give the company the capability to deliver more than 1 million packages by drone in a year.

Customers within a mile of a participating location can place orders through between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Drones can deliver items up to 10 pounds, the retailer said, including more than 10,000 eligible products. Deliveries can be completed in as a little as 30 minutes, with no order minimum and a flat fee of $3.99.

Even fragile items, such as eggs, can be delivered via drone, Walmart said.

“Once items are packaged and loaded into the drone, the order is then delivered using a cable that gently lowers the package into the customer’s yard,” the retailer said in a statement.

DroneUp, which was founded in 2016, has worked closely with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to receive approval for its deliveries, which are conducted by certified pilots, the company said.

“Our mission is to set the gold standard for drone delivery and, by partnering with Walmart, bring the incredible benefits that drones offer to local communities, organizations and businesses,” DroneUp CEO and founder Tom Walker said in a statement. “Our approach is unique; we practice safety above all else and incorporate state-of-the art technology. Our strong relationship with the FAA has also been critical to our success as we build an infrastructure that supports growth and great career programs for operators now and in the future.”



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