Technology

Walmart to Test-Pilot Another Drone Solution

walmart delivery drone

Another day, another drone.

Walmart this week announced it would begin a second test of deliveries via unmanned aircraft—this time, a test of a slingshot plane that would drop pharmacy items at customer homes via disposable parachutes.

A drone delivery test with Zipline, which proved its technologies delivering medical supplies to hard-to-reach areas overseas, is set to begin early next year out of a Walmart Supercenter near the company’s Bentonville, Ark., headquarters. The new service will make on-demand deliveries of select health and wellness products with the potential to expand to general merchandise, Tom Ward, Walmart’s chief product officer, said in a blog post.

Last week, Ward in a separate announcement described the launch of a test of drone deliveries near Fayetteville, N.C., in partnership with Flytrex.

Zipline began operating in late 2016 in Rwanda primarily focusing on the on-demand delivery of medical supplies. Ward said it operates the world’s largest drone delivery network and was positioned to provide “national-scale operations across the United States.”

Its proprietary technology, including a launch that resembles a slingshot and landings through a wire that “catches” a plane on a hook as it approaches, videos show, are “pretty cool,” Ward said.

“Zipline will operate from a Walmart store and can service a 50-mile radius, which is about the size of the state of Connecticut. And not only does their launch and release system allow for quick on-demand delivery in under an hour, but it also eliminates carbon emissions, which lines up perfectly with our sustainability goals. The operation will likely begin early next year, and, if successful, we’ll look to expand,” Ward said.

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