In a race to make faster deliveries than rival competitors like FedEx, UPS, and Amazon, Walmart is ready to use a drone operation to deliver goods to customers. Yes, you heard correctly, Walmart, America’s largest retail chain, is looking up into the “big sky” by using flying drones operated by DroneUp to make deliveries to customers.
The idea of using drones started between 2019-2020, and Walmart sent news media alerts about the program in May 2022. Walmart trial-tested the drone service during the Covid-19 lockdown by partnering with three drone operators identified as FlyTrex, DroneUp, and Zipline. These services delivered groceries and medicines that residents badly needed to survive during the Covid lockdown.
Deliveries-in-the-air allow Walmart to cover more ground in less time. There are 37 Walmart stores equipped to make aerial runs to drop off favorite foods and other essential goods. Capitalizing on this unique technology, Walmart is expected to reach potentially 4 million households across Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Texas, Utah, and Virginia.
Walmart launched the growth initiative to change the dynamics in eCommerce retail. So far, Walmart is off to a progressive start because drone delivery services in the eCommerce world will make companies more competitive.
“In our ongoing effort to get customers the items they want faster, we know it will take a well-coordinated network of delivery solutions that span the streets, sidewalks, and skies,” said John Furner, president, and CEO of U.S.-based Walmart. “Some of these solutions are still emerging but already showing encouraging results.”
“The drone service industry has reached an inflection point of rapidly increased adoption and acceptance,” said Tom Walker, founder, and CEO of DroneUp. “Walmart and DroneUp are uniquely positioned to succeed in the next chapter of last-mile delivery.” Walker further stated. “Walmart’s vast hub-and-spoke network, combined with DroneUp’s extensive operational expertise, will unlock affordable rapid delivery and nationwide drone services.”
Shoppers, however, are not limited to a short list of pre-selected items. Instead, they’ll be able to order anything from Tylenol to diapers to hot dog buns and up to 100,000 different products weighing no more than 10 pounds.
When customers decide to use Walmart’s drone delivery services, the orders are packaged and loaded onto the drone. Each order cannot exceed 10 pounds, and orders are made from 8:AM to 8:PM. The fee for drone delivery is $3.99.
“If it fits safely, it flies,” DroneUp CEO Walker told Axios Media.
But the technology delivery services are gradually shaping up to become a “battle between titans.” Amazon’s Prime Air is in the mix. Amazon Prime Air is a service designed to safely deliver packages to customers in 30 minutes or less using aerial vehicles. “It has great potential to enhance the service we already provide to millions of customers by offering rapid parcel delivery that will also increase the overall safety and efficiency of the transportation system,” the Amazon website says.
With a steep decline in shares at brick-and-mortar large retailers in the U.S., Walmart, and Target, not since 1987, both suffered their worst one-day losses this past May, plunging by 18 percent and 25 percent, respectively. In March, spending on durable goods, home and garden equipment, toys, and electronics, fell by 10.7 percent. But, despite the losses, Walmart hasn’t been deterred by unpredictable losses here and there as the retail giant forges its services deeper into technology.
CEO Furner also mentioned in news media outlets that Walmart has the infrastructure in place for drone delivery. With 4,700 stores stocked with more than 100,000 of the most purchased items located within 10 miles of 90% of the U.S. population. The drone operations are a major change.
“This makes us uniquely positioned to execute drone deliveries, which is why our investment in DroneUp won’t just apply to the skies but also the ground,” Furner said. “In the coming months, we’ll be beginning an operation at a store in Bentonville, Arkansas” (where founder Sam Walton opened the first Walmart).
According to Walmart’s website, Walmart packages aren’t the only service the drones will deliver. DroneUp will also offer local businesses and municipalities aerial drone solutions in areas such as insurance, emergency response, and real estate. For example, a local construction company can work with DroneUp to monitor on-site job progress through aerial drone photography.
Walmart and General Motors
Back in April 2022, Walmart announced a similar investment in Cruise to have orders delivered to customers. Cruise is an autonomous, self-driven electric vehicle made by General Motors. The retailer is conducting pilot programs for the car in Scottsdale and Chandler, Arizona, where Cruise’s fleet of vehicles is powered by 100 percent renewable energy, supporting Walmart’s goal of zero emissions by 2040.
The Cruise will offer delivery from Monday to Friday, from 8:AM to 8:PM. The service area for Cruise delivery is based on demand and varied locations. Walmart customers are told they can save money by opting to have their orders delivered by Cruise.
To opt-in, according to techcrunch.com, a customer must place a Walmart order online and agree to receive SMS messages from Cruise asking if they’d like to receive their parcel from one of Cruise’s vehicles.
The Federal Aviation Administration will closely monitor Walmart and its aerial delivery service with DroneUp while preparing regulations to allow widespread drone deployment over longer distances. FAA drone rules determine what can be done in any drone operation. The commercial rules are not the same as for recreational fyers.
“We can manage airspace safely so they can assess that this is really a viable, scalable business model,” DroneUp CEO Walker said. Walmart representatives said the retail giant is also planning to utilize drone services to generate income through other programs.
Walmart Founder Sam Walton once said, “I have always been driven to buck the system, innovate, and take things beyond where they’ve been.” These Drone operations are bucking the system.
As it stands now, with the unrivaled power of technology, “We’re doing just that with drone technology, making it a feasible solution that we know customers and communities will enjoy,” a representative for Walmart said.
Contact Newsblaze Senior Business Reporter Clarence Walker at [email protected]