Walmart is introducing drone deliveries in as many as six different US states: the intention is that four million households will see their online orders fall from the sky before the end of the year.
One million drone deliveries per year
Walmart is set to be the first major retailer to use drones for deliveries. The superstore chain says that by the end of this year, some four million American households will be able to receive parcels from the air. The households in question are spread across six different states: in parts of Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Texas, Utah and Virginia, customers could receive more than a million parcels a year by drone, The Guardian reports.
Initially, the orders will be small, with a maximum weight of 10 pounds (4.5 kg). During earlier tests, the drones mainly delivered household items and corona self tests, but Walmart sees a lot more possibilities. The potential range covers up to 100,000 different products in numerous categories, from snacks to batteries and detergent. The chain itself finds it telling that in one location, instant pasta meals were the most frequently delivered product. “If it fits safely, it flies,” Walmart reasons.
Taking off in the car park
The drones are remotely controlled by operators from partner DroneUp and will land in customers’ driveways or front yards. Walmart says it will charge a delivery fee of 3.99 dollars per delivery. It would be the first large-scale drone delivery programme in the US, although the retailer is not yet addressing many of the practical questions that arise.
While drone delivery seems like an efficient and straightforward last-mile solution, in practice there are a lot of restrictions on where the drones can deliver. For example, distances are limited, there cannot be any airports or no-fly zones nearby, and drones need a safe place to land.
However, Walmart thinks it can capitalise on its large physical shop network: more than 9 out of 10 Americans live within a 10 mile radius of one of its hypermarkets. Thus, the orders will be packed in the shops and then flown to the consumer’s home, where the package will be lowered to the ground using a cable. The announced drone deliveries will depart from a selection of 37 shops.
Here’s a brief analysis of the challenges drone delivery faces: