These days, several large stores around the world are considering the possibility of delivering purchases using drones. One of them is Walmart, which has announced a partnership with US-based drone company, Zipline, to launch a first-of-its-kind drone delivery operation in the U.S. The new service will make on-demand deliveries of select health and wellness products with the potential to expand to general merchandise.
The Zipline system allows for quick on-demand delivery in under an hour; working from a Walmart store, it can serve a radius of about 50-mile (80 km) and carry up to approximately 2 kilograms of product. It also eliminates carbon emissions, which lines up perfectly with our sustainability goals.
Products ordered online or through the Walmart app are placed in a Zipline delivery box attached to the drone. It will use Zipline’s parachute deployment system to bring them safely to the ground within one hour of being ordered.
A trial version of the service will likely begin early next year near Walmart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas. If the testing is successful, Walmart will look to expand the delivery of health products with Zipline’s autonomous drones.
Earlier this year, Zipline announced a partnership with a North Carolina hospital for contactless supplies of medical supplies and personal protective equipment. Zipline’s first national unmanned aerial vehicle delivery system was launched in 2016, in Rwanda, primarily focusing on the on-demand delivery of medical supplies. To date, they’ve safely delivered more than 200,000 critical medical products to thousands of health facilities serving more than 20 million people across multiple countries.
Last week, Walmart announced a small pilot program in North Carolina using robotic drones from startup Flytrex to deliver some groceries and household items. Also, it is reported that Britain’s biggest retailer Tesco will test home delivery of groceries using drones next month.
Besides, Amazon received FAA clearance in August to operate in the United States as an unmanned airline, which could mark the start of larger commercial operations. It will be interesting to see which of the two U.S. retail giants focused on drone delivery – Walmart and Amazon – is the most successful.