Walmart Expands Drone Delivery in Six States

A DroneUp pilot observes a drone delivering a Walmart package
A DroneUp pilot observes a drone delivering a Walmart package after being ordered by a resident in El Paso, Texas. (Mario Tama/Getty Images via Bloomberg News)

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Walmart soon will deliver packages to homes in six states using drones.

The retail giant announced May 24 it’s expanding its drone delivery program across six states: Florida, Arizona, Arkansas, Texas, Utah and Virginia. Drone hubs will be set up at 34 sites by the end of the year.

One of the sites will be in Tampa, Fla., Walmart spokesperson John Engleman said in an email.

Once it arrives in Tampa, the drone delivery service would be available for $3.99 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. ET on purchases 10 pounds and under. When a customer orders a delivery, workers will load the items onto the drone, which will then carry it to the house and gently drop the package using a cable. The drones can deliver products in as little as 30 minutes, according to Walmart.

The delivery program is the latest advancement from the Arkansas retailer competing against Amazon. Walmart partnered with DroneUp, headquartered in Virginia Beach and founded in 2016, during the pandemic. The drone delivery program has been in service near Walmart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark. Walmart announced last June it was investing in DroneUp after trials of delivering home COVID-19 self-collection kits.

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Stores with delivery hubs will employ DroneUp’s certified drone pilots, who can operate under Federal Aviation Administration drone guidelines, the announcement said.

The expansion is set to reach 4 million households and could deliver 1 million packages in a year, said David Guggina, Walmart’s senior vice president of innovation and automation. Guggina said while they expected drone deliveries to be used mostly for emergencies, it’s proven popular for convenient uses. One of the most delivered products out of one of the current drone hubs is Hamburger Helper.

The move from Walmart comes years after Amazon launched its own drone delivery in 2016. Since its launch, Amazon Prime Air has stalled some, but is still conducting delivery trials. Drone technology is one way retailers are exploring how to offer even quicker delivery options for customers while keeping costs down. The FAA regulates drone use, and so far, the service has been slow to gain traction.

Walmart Inc. ranks No. 3 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest private carriers in North America.

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