Retail giant Walmart said that it is teaming up with Zipline to launch a first-of-its-kind drone delivery operation in the U.S. The new service will make on-demand deliveries of select health and wellness products with the potential to expand to general merchandise.
The retailer earlier this month announced that it would run a pilot project for delivery of grocery and household products through automated drones with end-to-end delivery firm Flytrex.
Trial deliveries will begin early next year near Walmart’s headquarters in Northwest Arkansas using Zipline’s proprietary technology.
Zipline will operate from a Walmart store and can service a 50-mile radius, which is about the size of the state of Connecticut. According to Walmart, not only does their launch and release system allow for quick on-demand delivery in under an hour, but it also eliminates carbon emissions, which lines up perfectly with its sustainability goals.
Zipline, which operates the world’s largest drone delivery network, began operating in late 2016 in Rwanda primarily focusing on the on-demand delivery of medical supplies. To date, they’ve safely delivered more than 200,000 critical medical products to thousands of health facilities serving more than 20 million people across multiple countries. This uniquely positions them for national-scale operations across the United States.
In a statement, Tom Ward, Walmart’s Senior Vice President, Customer Product said that people are busier than ever, which is why it is seeking new ways to make their lives easier.
Ward added, “As we continue to build upon the foundation of innovation laid for us by Mr. Sam, we’ll never stop looking into and learning about what the next best technology is and how we can use it to better serve our customers now and into the future.”
Zipline, a California-based company, recently made a medical delivery deal in the U.S. with Novant Health for contactless distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) and critical medical supplies to frontline medical teams in the Charlotte, North Carolina metro area, via Zipline-operated drones.
Walmart’s competitor, Amazon, recently received approval from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to operate as a drone airline in the United States, paving the way to start offering commercial deliveries on a trial basis.