Walmart has made a big investment in the drone industry, and it looks likely that the retail giant will be running drone deliveries of goods to homes in Walmart’s own hometown of Bentonville, Arkansas sooner rather than later.
Walmart announced an investment of an undisclosed sum in drone service provider DroneUp.
Walmart has actually already worked with DroneUp. In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Walmart partnered with DroneUp to launch trial deliveries of at-home COVID-19 self-collection kits in the North Las Vegas-area.. While that was a trial to prove that it was possible to offer customers delivery in minutes versus hours, this new investment is meant to prove something more. To be eligible to get the coronavirus testing kit shipped to your house (which came free of charge, no less), you simply had to live in a single-family home located within a 1-mile radius of the North Las Vegas Walmart, located at 1807 West Craig Road — which is where the drones were launched. Though, that trial has since ended.
“After safely completing hundreds of drone deliveries from Walmart stores, we’re making an investment in DroneUp to continue our work toward developing a scalable last-mile delivery solution,” said John Furner, CEO and President of Walmart U.S.
Furner said that because Walmart stores are already located within 10 miles of 90% of the U.S. population, operating drone deliveries makes logistical sense. With 4,700 stores, drones could operate out of individual stores to conduct those last-mile deliveries.
And the first of those stores will be based out of a location in Bentonville, Arkansas.
DroneUp is an on-demand drone delivery network that matches their database of more than 10,000, Part 107-certified FAA pilots to missions nationwide. DroneUp was the first operator to use the FAA 107.39 waiver, which allows for delivery flights to be conducted over people and moving vehicles. More recently, it got a leg up on the policy level when it announced that it was invited to join the FAA’s Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) Aviation Rule Making Committee, where it will participate in the development of beyond line of sight drone flights.
This isn’t the first time Walmart has invested in future tech. In April, Walmart announced a similar investment in Cruise, an all-electric autonomous vehicle company. And Walmart has also already partnered with other drone companies. It conducted trial deliveries of groceries in Fayetteville, North Carolina, in a partnership with drone delivery company Flytrex, and it worked with Zipline to deliver health and wellness products in Northwest Arkansas.