In what could someday be heralded as a seismic shift in consumer goods delivery, Walmart has announced the expansion of DroneUp, its partnered effort to get packages delivered to consumers quicker than ever before by using drones.
After a round of successful beta tests of hundreds of deliveries near its headquarters in Arkansas, the company says it’s become a true believer in how drones can offer a practical solution for getting certain items fast.
The company said it initially thought that DroneUp’s best-use scenario would be for emergency items. But as its tests grew in scope, it found that consumers were using it for its convenience.
This latest expansion has the potential to reach 4 million U.S. households in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Texas, Utah, and Virginia -- a move that the company says will be able to help it deliver 1 million packages by drone annually. If its next step proves successful, Walmart could expand the technology to 4,700 stores located within 10 miles of over 90% of the U.S. population.
Expedited delivery has put Walmart in an envious position over the last few years. The company's Delivery Unlimited and InHome services have already pushed the delivery envelope, and DroneUp could bring delivery times down to as little as 30 minutes.
Walmart’s competitors – mainly Amazon – will no doubt be watching DroneUp’s every move carefully. “
Walmart’s expansive footprint will be an advantage for the company as retailers grapple with how to make drone deliveries efficient for business and accessible for customers,” RetailDive reported. “Package-carrying drones haven’t filled the skies as some expected when Amazon announced its plans for Amazon Prime Air in 2014 ... [but] Amazon’s efforts have been beset by high delivery costs."
How DroneUp will work
DroneUp’s schematic is pretty simple: Consumers can shop from tens of thousands of eligible items and pay a $3.99 delivery fee for a package weighing 10 pounds or less to be delivered. The service is offered seven days per week between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. Once an order is bundled for delivery, the drone takes to the air.
“Simply put, if it fits safely it flies,” Walmart said.
Americans have been positive about the potential of drone-based delivery in the past, and that apparently still holds true. DroneUp CEO Tom Walker said at a consumer show earlier this year that community engagement with drone delivery "has been phenomenal."