Drone delivery has been a long time coming, but its actual implementation has largely arrived in fits and starts. Some companies (Alphabet’s Wing) have made decent headway, while others (Amazon) have struggled. There are still plenty of issues to contend with ahead of any sort of mainstream adoption, from regulation to congestion to safety concerns. But a number of parties have found small successes in limited markets.
Today, Walmart is expanding its own investment, announcing plans to extend its partnership with DroneUp to include 34 sites across six states. The planned rollout is set to be completed by the end of the year, at which point it will — theoretically — cover up to 4 million U.S. households.
The retailer announced an investment in the 6-year-old startup late last year, following trial deliveries of COVID-19 testing kits. Early trials were conducted in Bentonville, Arkansas. This year, Arizona, Florida, Texas and DroneUp’s native Virginia are being added to the list. Once online, customers will be able to choose from tens of thousands of products, from Tylenol to hot dog buns, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.
The companies note that Hamburger Helper, of all things, has been the top selling item at one of its existing sites, which goes to show that consumers are willing to pay a $4 delivery fee for the convenience (and novelty) of having an item delivered as quickly as 30 minutes after clicking “buy.”
The drones are capable of moving up to 10 pounds of merchandise, remotely controlled by FAA-certified pilots (the dream of full autonomy, it seems, is still a ways off). When the drone reaches its destination, it will hover above the customer’s yard and lower the package on a cable — a method that’s become pretty standard with these systems.
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