Walmart expands drone-delivery service to reach 4 million households

BENTONVILLE, Ark. — The drones are coming.

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Walmart announced Tuesday it is expanding its drone-delivery service across six states before the close of 2022.

“Today we’re announcing we’ll be expanding our DroneUp delivery network to 34 sites by the end the year, providing the potential to reach 4 million U.S. households across six states – Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Texas, Utah and Virginia. This provides us the ability to deliver over 1 million packages by drone in a year,” David Guggina, senior vice president of innovation and automation for Walmart U.S., wrote in a blog post.

The Bentonville, Arkansas-based retail behemoth currently offers drone deliveries from a few stores near its headquarters and in North Carolina, CNBC reported.

According to the network, Tuesday’s announcement builds on efforts launched two years ago to test how the small, unmanned aircraft could “change the game for retail, drive e-commerce growth and turn its stores into a way to outmatch Amazon on speed.”

Specifically, the big-box retailer inked deals in 2020 with three operators — Flytrex, Zipline and DroneUp — launching pilot projects to deliver groceries, household essentials and at-home COVID-19 test kits to customers.

According to Guggina’s blog post, customers who live within the range of a Walmart drone-delivery site can order any of thousands of items — up to 10 pounds in total weight ­­— between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., with a drone delivery fee of $3.99.

Each order is picked, packaged and loaded at the store and flown remotely by a certified pilot to the customer’s yard or driveway, where packages are slowly lowered via a cable, CNBC reported.

Currently, orders must be placed on DroneUp’s website or through the websites of the two other operators, but Walmart plans to add the capability to its own website and app.

Meanwhile, the retailer also plans to offset the cost of the service by selling photographs taken by drones to municipalities and local business, such as construction or real estate companies, with revenue split with the drone operator, CNBC reported.

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