The service will operate between 8AM and 8PM and deliver packages weighing less than 10 pounds. The service will be operated by a company Walmart has invested in--DroneUp. There will be a charge of $3.99 for the delivery. The order is packed into a box and a DroneUp pilot flies the drone to the customer’s location, easing the box gently down on the front lawn with a claw-like device at the end of a sturdy cable.
This program expansion is forecasted to take hundreds of deliveries within a few months to more than a million drone deliveries a year. Walmart is clearly targeting the one or two items that are purchased with quick last-minute trips. The press release stated that the top-selling item at one of the early hubs is Hamburger Helper.
The Wall Street Journal reported that both UPS and FedEx are experimenting with drones but aren’t offering an actual service yet. Alphabet (Google’s parent) has its own drone service called Wing with limited offerings in Virginia and Texas. Wing is also operating in Australia and through the first quarter of 2022, they claim deliveries of over 200,000 parcels.
And we can’t forget Amazon. As we wrote in Technology This Week Issue 8-49, the company is still experiencing problems with its drone efforts. The big difference for Amazon’s program is that they want the drones to be autonomous rather than piloted. Because of their commitment to “certified pilots,” Walmart will have a tougher time scaling up their efforts. Drone flights, by regulation, must be ‘line-of-sight’ flights. Stores will have to have control towers in their parking lots and are limited to a 1.5-mile radius for deliveries.
We will all keep our eyes on Walmart during the rest of 2022 to see if they will be successful in their new drone efforts. It could be a chance for Walmart to surpass Amazon in a critical technology area in the new retail arena!