Retailing giant Walmart is shifting its aerial partnership with DroneUp into higher gear with its announcement today of expanded drone delivery services to a potential of 4 million households across six US states.
In making the move, Walmart says it plans on broadening its existing drone delivery network to 34 sites in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Texas, Utah, and Virginia, allowing it to transport more than a million orders to customers’ homes each year. The aerial service will be available daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m, and cost $3.99 for each package of up to 10 lbs. That relatively heavy payload capacity means, Walmart says, “if it fits safely, it flies.”
The significant enlargement of its operations is the most recent sign of Walmart’s commitment to drone deliveries as a driver of future growth.
That began in September of 2020 with a trial run of UAVs shuttling a limited number of products to customers in Lafayette, North Carolina. The following January, Walmart and partner Zipline got the okay to test aerial transport of health and wellness orders in Pea Ridge, Arkansas. Later that same month the retailer paired up with Coca-Cola in Georgia to deliver drinks in the sky.
But the scope and scale of that activity has increased significantly within recent months, with the new expansion marking an even bigger development push.
Last June Walmart took a direct ownership stake in DroneUp, with which it had partnered in earlier drone delivery services. Both the scope and scale of that activity has significantly increased since, with the new evolution marking even more dramatic growth.
Last November Walmart and DroneUp began operating their first delivery network using multiple sites to fly orders to customers in three Arkansas towns. A few months earlier, Walmart rolled out its GoLocal platform opening its drones and other last-mile delivery vehicles to certain outside retailers for transporting goods to clients.
Its new expansion indicates Walmart plans to go as big with drone delivery as demand and regulation allow. To do that it is relying on DroneUp’s network of over 10,000 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certified pilots to fly orders from some of Walmart’s 4,700 stores stocking more than 100,000 frequently bought goods. The retailer says those outlets are within 10 miles of 90% of the US population.