Walmart Will Deliver by Drone Within 30 Minutes for Select Shoppers
Your next home order from the retailer giant could come out of the blue.
Part of what has kept Walmart the retail powerhouse it is has been its ability to adapt to the times. Unlike some other legacy stores, the company has maintained relevance by tailoring its shopping experience and keeping up with technology by updating its app and website—while also establishing a reliable pickup and delivery service for customers who want to save time on a trip to the store. But now, select shoppers will have an entirely new way to get their essential items after Walmart announced it would deliver orders to some homes within 30 minutes by drone. Read on to find out how the company is rolling out its newest service.
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Walmart has been testing new ways to expand its delivery capabilities.
Getting errands done used to require a trip to the store, perusing aisles, waiting in line at the checkout, and getting home to unpack all of your items. But the digital commerce era has ushered in an unprecedented wave of delivery services that can make daily life much easier. And as the nation's largest retailer, Walmart hasn't held back in developing its own offerings.
Even in an era of unprecedented delivery options, Walmart customers have grown accustomed to services that can make shopping with the retailer quick and convenient. The store has launched its Express delivery service in recent years that boasts a drop-off window of two hours or less. And it even went a step further with its InHome delivery service, which allows Walmart+ subscribers to have their groceries put away in their home refrigerators.
But Walmart has found a way to make its deliveries literally take off in the past few years. In 2020, the retailer began experimenting with using drones to deliver COVID-19 testing kits in select test markets in partnership with the DroneUp delivery network, CNN reported. The company expanded its services the following year by launching the service at two stores in Northwest Arkansas for general deliveries to get even more feedback and fine-tune the fledgling system for wider release, according to Axios. And now, even more customers have access to the new service.
Select customers in four additional cities can now order a drone to deliver their Walmart items.
Depending on where you live, you might be able to get your next batch of necessities from the sky. On Dec. 15, Walmart announced that it had expanded its drone delivery service to several more stores across three states. The new locations include seven stores in Tampa and Orlando in Florida, four in Phoenix, Arizona, and 11 in the Dallas, Texas area, Retail Dive reports.
"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," Vik Gopalakrishnan, Walmart U.S. vice president of innovation and automation, said 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."
The new delivery method will allow for drop-offs in as little as 30 minutes.
According to the company's press release, customers who live within a mile of stores set up with a DroneUp hub can place orders online from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day. For a fee of $3.99, shoppers can fill their carts with eligible items up to 10 pounds—including fragile products like eggs—that will be delivered in as soon as 30 minutes.
The company specified that it's using a team of certified pilots that "operate within [Federal Aviation Administration] FAA guidelines" to help manage the system safely. "Once a customer places an order, the item is fulfilled from the store, packaged, loaded into the drone, and delivered right to their yard using a cable that gently lowers the package," Walmart wrote in their statement.
The company says it plans to add drone delivery to more stores by the end of the year.
News of the expansion comes just months after the retailer announced it had big plans to build up its drone delivery service to 34 sites across six states by the end of the year, including Utah and Virginia. The company says this will allow it to reach 4 million households and deliver more than 1 million packages by drone in a year. However, it didn't provide any update on future launch dates in its press release.
"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," Tom Walker, CEO of DroneUp, said in the 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."
So far, the company says it's pleased with the rollout of its futuristic delivery method—and even discovered a few surprises. "We've seen a positive response from our customers that have used the service," the company wrote in its release. "In fact, 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. Case in point: The top-selling item at one of our current hubs is Hamburger Helper."
Walmart also says it plans to use the service to help give back to local communities as it builds out infrastructure, saying DroneUp will offer local businesses and city governments assistance in everything from emergency response to real estate development. It also plans to build up flight data to help other companies expand drone offerings in the future.