Between the fanfare of initial announcements of intent, network planning, testing, regulatory approval, community consultation, and recurring teasers of looming launches, it can be a little difficult keeping current on the actual state of play in drone delivery activity – a haziness Walmart is now endeavoring to dissipate.
This week, Walmart released figures on the exact, up-to-date numbers of its drone delivery operations – activities that, sector-wide, habitually commence many months (or, in the case of Amazon, several years) after launch plans are first revealed. But although it took nearly a year between the 2021 announcement that Walmart had decided to start the service and actual launch of aerial operations the following year, the retailing giant has been building considerable momentum since – something to which its newly released figures bear witness.
Read: DroneUp begins Walmart drone delivery service in Texas [Update]
Walmart wrapped up 2022 with a flurry of new aerial action that it now clearly wants to augment in 2023. In mid-December, Walmart initiated previously announced drone deliveries in eight cities in Texas, and promised more markets would follow before the year was out. True to its word, the retailer began additional aerial services in Arizona, Florida, Utah, and Virginia in the days that followed the Texas debut.
Prior to those launches, Walmart broadened operations started in 2021 with Zipline in its home state of Arkansas, and has worked with DroneUp – in which Walmark has an equity stake – as well as Flytrex in other markets.
So where does that gradually expanding drone delivery activity leave Walmart today?
According to the company’s communiqué, Walmart now operates 36 drone delivery hubs across seven states – Arkansas, Arizona, Nevada, Texas, Florida, Virginia, and North Carolina. It said UAVs had transported over 6,000 orders to customers in 2022, all within 30 minutes of receiving them.
Walmart notes that over 85% of items sold in a typical a neighborhood market are compatible with the maximum the 10 lbs. weight and volume capacities of delivery drones.
It reported the top five items transported by UAVs last year were Great Value Cookies and Cream Ice Cream, 2 lbs. bags of lemons, rotisserie chicken, Red Bull, and Bounty paper towels – not even a mention of the reputedly common (and increasingly notorious) aerial orders for hot coffee and toilet paper.
Read: Walmart hitches future to drone deliveries via DroneUp investment
Walmart says that because its 4,700 US stores stock over 100,000 frequently bought goods – all of which are located within 10 miles of 90% of the US population – its work in 2022 getting drone deliveries off the ground and gaining altitude is expected to ascend even higher in coming months and years.
“I’m incredibly proud of our team for creating the largest drone delivery footprint of any US retailer and providing customers with an incredibly fast – and innovative – option for delivery,” said Vik Gopalakrishnan, vice president of innovation and automation for Walmart US. “We’re encouraged by the positive response from customers and look forward to making even more progress in 2023.”