Walmart is Building A Drone Fleet

Issue 39

10.05.20 - Many Americans have had packages dropped off at their home from Walmart, but deliveries could soon become very different from the typical mode.

Over the past month, Walmart has announced a trio of deals with drone operators to test different uses for the drones. They have partnered with Flytrex to deliver groceries and household essentials in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and it plans to launch another project with Zipline, a company best known for its medical drone deliveries in African countries. The project is said to be for on-demand, at-home deliveries of health and wellness products. The company has also been testing deliveries of Covid-19 test kits with Quest Diagnostics and DroneUp in suburbs of Las Vegas and Cheektowaga, a suburb of Buffalo, New York.

Drones were once seen as a futuristic novelty, but they have recently gained more traction as a common way for companies to deliver products to their customers. E-commerce sales have been growing and the pressure has been put on retailers to speed up deliveries and use quick turnaround times as a differentiator between them and their competitors. More Americans have grown accustomed to the use of drones lately, as drone sales have gone up around the country. And pandemic-related trends, such as shopping from home instead of the store aisle or mall, could broaden their appeal too while limiting contact with strangers in a socially distanced world.

With Walmart’s drone tests, the big-box retailer is trying to play catch-up with Amazon’s dominant e-commerce business, which has been cutting into their margins. Amazon’s in-house robotics team has built its own drones and received certification from the Federal Aviation Administration recently to operate a fleet of Prime Air delivery drones. It comes under Part 135 of FAA regulations, which gives Amazon the ability to carry property on small drones “beyond the visual line of sight” of the operator.

Source: NBC News