Kroger is set to begin testing drone delivery of items like baby products, over-the-counter medications, and other items weighing about five pounds or less. Test flights will kick off later this week at a store in Centerville, Ohio.
The company has partnered with Drone Express for the program. Consumers can have products flown by “certified drone pilots under FAA approval.” Kroger executives said drone delivery will help further expand its delivery options, which currently include curbside pickup and same-day delivery.
"The pilot reinforces the importance of flexibility and immediacy to customers, powered by modern, cost-effective, and efficient last-mile solutions,” said Kroger's Jody Kalmbach, group vice president of product experience. “We're excited to test drone delivery and gain insights that will inform expansion plans as well as future customer solutions."
Bundled product offerings
The grocery chain said it’s designing bundled product offerings that fit within the size and weight constraints of drone delivery. For example, Kroger will offer a baby care bundle with wipes and formula, a child wellness bundle with over-the-counter medications and fluids, and a S'mores bundle with graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate.
Once the program gets underway, Kroger said customers can have orders delivered within as little as 15 minutes. As far as possible delivery destinations, Kroger said the possibilities for customers are “endless.”
Drone Express technology will allow packages to be delivered to the location of a customer's smartphone. Kroger said this means that customers will, for instance, “be able to order delivery of picnic supplies to a park, sunscreen to the beach, or condiments to a backyard cookout.”
"Autonomous drones have unlimited potential to improve everyday life, and our technology opens the way to safe, secure, environmentally friendly deliveries for Kroger customers," said Beth Flippo, CTO, TELEGRID. "The possibilities for customers are endless – we can enable Kroger customers to send chicken soup to a sick friend or get fast delivery of olive oil if they run out while cooking dinner."
The test flights scheduled to take place later this week will be managed from an on-site trailer, with additional monitoring occurring offsite. A second pilot program will take place this summer out of a Ralph’s store in California.
Kroger’s competitor Walmart has been testing drone deliveries for years. The retailer is currently testing a program through which customers in North Carolina can have household goods and groceries delivered by Flytrex drones. In Arkansas, the company is testing Zipline drones for the delivery of health and wellness products.