- Walmart introducing its first drone-delivery network to 4 million households across 6 regions with contractor DroneUp will boost its total number of stations to 37 by the end of the year.
- This drone-delivery expansion will bring new customers into the Walmart fold, delivering over 1 million packages annually in different parts of Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Texas, Utah, and Virginia.
- Shoppers residing within the retail giant’s drone-delivery zones will be able to receive items weighing less than 10 pounds between 8AM and 8PM.
Walmart has been experimenting with the idea of using bots to make home deliveries for some time now. That idea took off with the establishment of the DroneUp delivery hub, complete with its own team of certified pilots operating within FAA guidelines. This initiative is expected to spur further e-commerce development and transform participating Walmart stores into drone-capable stores to outpace Amazon in delivery speed and performance.
The big-box retailer has announced its plans to extend its drone delivery to six states, allowing more than 4 million consumers to access the service and receive deliveries in 30 minutes or less. “We continue to expand our delivery operations to help customers get the items they need when they need them, and it’s been an exciting journey“, David Guggina, Senior Vice President of Innovation and Automation (Walmart U.S.), expressed his views.
Drone-capable Walmart stores will house a DroneUp delivery hub. Once a customer places an order via DroneUp’s website, it will be processed, packaged, and loaded on the drone to be dropped off at the buyer’s doorstep. Under this arrangement, 34 outlets from a total of 37 stores will be operated by DroneUp.
A few Walmart locations near its base in northwestern Arkansas and North Carolina presently offer the drone delivery service. The big-boxer is continuously working on developing the network, using unmanned planes to transform the modern retail landscape. The new technology will boost e-commerce development and enable Walmart to outperform Amazon, which has already tested its own drone delivery in 2016.
Two years ago, Walmart established partnerships with several carriers – Flyrex, Zipline, and DroneUp – and launched experimental programs to transport groceries, household necessities, and COVID-19 lab tests to buyers. The new delivery method is an outgrowth of Walmart’s aim to capitalize on its vast physical network. 90% of Americans reside within 15 kilometers of a Walmart store over 4,700 locations.
Amazon, on the other hand, is working on an entirely different drone delivery model altogether. The e-commerce giant plans to operate its drone delivery services without the aid of human pilots. Although Amazon demonstrated a successful test delivery in 2016 in the UK, the company seems to be in no position to launch a full-fledged program to pose any major competition.
This is where Walmart can take full advantage of the opportunity and scale the new service at a rapid pace. The retailer is introducing more drone delivery options, such as curb collection, InHome which delivers items straight to the buyers’ refrigerators, and Express Delivery, which makes home deliveries within 2 hours or less.
Consumers within reach of a Walmart small drone-delivery location may order hundreds of products throughout the 8AM to 8PM window. The order is to be placed by the buyer on the webpage of DroneUp or one of two additional operators’ platforms. Walmart has plans to ultimately offer order placement functionality on its own website and mobile app soon. Every drone delivery incurs a $3.99 cost. Each parcel is packaged and loaded on the drone before being autonomously flown to the customer’s yard or entrance by a professional pilot.
While many at Walmart thought that customers would use the drone delivery service to order emergency items (OTC prescription medication), it came as a shock when it was observed shoppers going for non-essential products like Hamburger Helper. According to Guggina, battery packs, bin bags, household cleaners, and Welch’s fruit treats are also favorite items for drone deliveries.
Walmart plans to utilize drone delivery technology to generate revenues in more than one way. The retailer will offset the delivery costs incurred by selling photos captured on unmanned aerial vehicles to municipal governments and local businesses, such as construction and real estate firms. The income will be shared with the operator of the drone.
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