Is drone delivery ready to take off?

Walmart made 6,000 drone drops in 2022 at 36 markets in seven states, inching the retailer closer to its goal of “conducting drone deliveries at scale.”
Walmart made 6,000 drone deliveries in 2022. / Photo courtesy: Walmart

Drone deliveries apparently took off at Walmart in 2022.

About 18 months after the retail giant announced that “conducting drone deliveries at scale is within reach,” Walmart reported that it made 6,000 drone deliveries in 2022.

That’s a significant jump from 2020, when Bentonville, Arkansas-based Walmart first partnered with drone services provider DroneUp to experiment with drone drops of COVID test kits.

Since then, Walmart has invested in Virginia Beach, Virginia-based DroneUp to expand its last-mile delivery services.

Walmart has also worked with Israel-based drone company Flytrex, as well as Zipline to test drop delivery of pharmacy items.

Last month, Walmart expanded its drone delivery network to parts of Phoenix, the Dallas area, Tampa and Orlando, looking to capture last-minute holiday shoppers.

The speed of drone delivery (as quick as 30 minutes or less) is a major selling point as retailers seek to lure convenience-minded customers.

“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 at the time. “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.”

In November, Amazon unveiled its new delivery drone, slated to come online in 2024. The drone is lighter and smaller than the retailer’s existing drone, with expanded temperature tolerance, safety features and a new ability to fly in light rain. The new drone is also quieter than previous models.

“When we first started Amazon’s Prime Two-Day Delivery program 17 years ago, it was considered revolutionary,” the company said in a statement. “Since then, we’ve developed new technologies and made investments in our logistics network that have helped us get packages to customers in two days, one day and even on the same day. To sustainably deliver a vast selection of items in under an hour, and eventually within 30 minutes, at scale, drones are the most-effective path to success.”

Walmart said it currently offers up to 20,000 items for drone delivery. Products must be 10 pounds or less and meet certain volume requirements.

The most-popular items delivered by drone by Walmart in 2022? Great Value Cookies and Cream Ice Cream, a two-pound bag of lemons, rotisserie chicken, Red Bull and Bounty paper towels, the retailer said.



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