By David Guggina, Senior Vice President of Innovation and Automation, Walmart U.S.
We continue to expand our delivery operations to help customers get the items they need when they need them, and it’s been an exciting journey. From Express delivery, where customers can have items delivered to their doorsteps in as little as two hours, to InHome, where they can get those orders placed right into their refrigerators, we’re proud to offer customers multiple options that help them save time and money.
One solution we’ve been working on over the last year is delivery via drone. Today we’re announcing we’ll be expanding our DroneUp delivery network to 34 sites by the end the year, providing the potential to reach 4 million U.S. households across six states – Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Texas, Utah and Virginia. This provides us the ability to deliver over 1 million packages by drone in a year.
Between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m., customers will be able to order from tens of thousands of eligible items, such as Tylenol, diapers and hot dog buns, for delivery by air in as little as 30 minutes. For a delivery fee of $3.99, customers can order items totaling up to 10 pounds, so simply put, if it fits safely it flies.
After completing hundreds of deliveries within a matter of months across our existing DroneUp hubs, we’ve seen firsthand how drones can offer customers a practical solution for getting certain items, fast. More importantly, we’ve seen a positive response from our customers that have used the service. In fact, while we initially thought customers would use the service for emergency items, we’re finding they use it for its sheer convenience, like a quick fix for a weeknight meal. Case in point: The top-selling item at one of our current hubs is Hamburger Helper.
Participating stores will house a DroneUp delivery hub inclusive of a team of certified pilots, operating within FAA guidelines, that safely manage flight operations for deliveries. Once a customer places an order, the item is fulfilled from the store, packaged, loaded into the drone and delivered right to their yard using a cable that gently lowers the package.
The customer has always been at the center of our focus at Walmart, and we look for partners that are as laser-focused on customer experience as we are. DroneUp has been a reliable partner as we’ve tested this solution and their capabilities will enable our business to scale with speed while maintaining a high caliber of safety and quality.
But Walmart packages aren’t the only thing the drones will deliver. A core value at Walmart is to give back to the communities in which we operate, which is why as we scale our drone infrastructure, we’ll continue to influence the expansion of drone technology and enable other businesses to explore its benefits, too. This means DroneUp will offer local businesses and municipalities aerial drone solutions in areas like insurance, emergency response and real estate. For example, a local construction agency can work with DroneUp to monitor on-site job progress through aerial drone photography.
Not only will the added revenue help offset the cost of delivery, but it also serves the entire drone industry by gathering more flight data as we work together to expand drone operations in a safe and regulated way.
Our founder Mr. Sam once said, “I have always been driven to buck the system, to innovate, to take things beyond where they’ve been.” We’re doing just that with drone technology, making it a feasible solution that we know customers and communities will enjoy.