Retail giant Walmart announced the expansion of its DroneUp delivery network to 34 sites by the end of the year, reaching four million U.S. households across six states, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Texas, Utah, and Virginia.
The retailer said the expanded service gives them the ability to deliver over 1 million packages by drone in a year.
Between 8 am and 8 pm, customers will be able to order from tens of thousands of eligible items, such as Tylenol, diapers, and hot dog buns, for delivery by air in as little as 30 minutes, said the company in a statement. For a $3.99 delivery fee, customers can order items up to 10 pounds.
Walmart said that after completing hundreds of deliveries in a matter of months from its existing DroneUp hubs, they confirmed how drones could offer customers a practical solution for getting certain items quickly. They also had positive feedback from those who have used the service.
While the retailer initially thought that customers would use the service for emergency items, they found that they use it for convenience as a quick solution for getting ingredients to prepare a weeknight meal. Case in point: The top-selling item at one of its DroneUp hubs is the Hamburger Helper.
Participating stores will house a DroneUp delivery hub, including a team of certified pilots operating within FAA guidelines that safely manage flight operations for deliveries. 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.
“The customer has always been at the center of our focus at Walmart, and we look for partners that are as laser-focused on customer experience as we are. DroneUp has been a reliable partner as we’ve tested this solution. Their capabilities will enable our business to scale with speed while maintaining a high caliber of safety and quality,” the retailer said.
But Walmart packages aren’t the only thing the drones will deliver. As it expands its drone infrastructure, Walmart will allow other companies to explore their advantages as well. This means DroneUp will offer local businesses and municipalities aerial drone solutions in areas like insurance, emergency response, and real estate.
The added revenue will help offset the cost of delivery. Still, it also serves the entire drone industry by gathering more flight data as we work together to expand drone operations in a safe and regulated way.