Walmart on Monday launched its first commercial drone delivery for online customers with tech partner DroneUp in northwest Arkansas, beginning with a Walmart Neighborhood Market in Farmington. The drone delivery service will operate from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m., seven days per week, to deliver items by air to eligible Walmart customers in as little as 30 minutes.
“When we invested in DroneUp earlier this year, we envisioned a drone delivery operation that could be quickly executed and replicated across multiple stores,” said Tom Ward, senior vice president of last mile at Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart U.S. “Opening our first hub within months of our initial concept showcases DroneUp’s ability to safely execute drone delivery operations with speed. We’re already hearing great customer feedback at our first site in Farmington, Ark., and look forward to opening additional locations.”
DroneUp’s delivery operation provides Walmart customers a safe, convenient, fast, and sustainable delivery option on thousands of items, including grocery, powered by a crew of skilled operators. To receive drone delivery, eligible Walmart customers first select and place their order online; operators pack the order and secure the box to the drone using a patented delivery release mechanism; and then the flight engineer manages a controlled and guided delivery, placing the order gently at the customer’s home.
Eligible customers in Farmington began placing orders Monday at droneupdelivery.com. The additional locations at a Walmart Neighborhood Market in Rogers, Ark., and a Walmart Supercenter in Bentonville are planned to open in the coming months.
“Teaming up with Walmart to launch three delivery hubs marks a significant leap forward in the broader use of UAS (unmanned aircraft systems) to provide last-mile consumer delivery services and supply chain efficiency options,” said Tom Walker, CEO of Virginia Beach-based DroneUp. “Walmart and DroneUp provide an unrivaled ability to pick, pack and deliver via drones directly from the store to consumers offering efficiencies no other retailer can match. We are proud of our team’s ability to deliver the technology helping Walmart launch a new era of commercial drone operations.”
DroneUp operates commercially nationwide and is an authorized government drone services provider for 11 states, where it serves public sector organizations. Walmart noted that DroneUp’s on-demand drone delivery network includes a database of more than 10,000 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-certified pilots, and the company was the first operator to use the FAA 107.39 waiver, an operation that allows delivery flights over people and moving vehicles.
The expansion of the partnership between Walmart and DroneUp was first announced in June. Prior to that, the companies piloted trial deliveries of at-home COVID-19 self-collection kits. The trial demonstrated to Walmart and DroneUp that they could offer customers delivery in minutes versus hours.
At the time, Walmart U.S. CEO John Furner said, ““Walmart already has a significant part of the infrastructure in place — 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. 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.
“Conducting drone deliveries at scale is within reach,” he added. “DroneUp’s expertise, combined with our retail footprint and proven history of logistics innovation, puts us right where we want to be for that day. Because when it comes to the future of drone delivery, we know the sky’s the limit.”