SAN FRANCISCO and BENTONVILLE, Ark.—Walmart is using drones to deliver its products to customers, according to a news release. The new service is available to residents in Pea Ridge, Arkansas, near Walmart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas. Walmart has partnered with Zipline for the service, a drone delivery startup that launched with emergency medical deliveries in Rwanda.
“Zipline’s aircraft can help provide immediate access to needed items for both hard-to-reach and at-risk populations, such as rural communities and elderly customers. By bringing this game-changing technology to the rural community of Pea Ridge, Arkansas, we’re continuing to look for ways to make shopping with Walmart convenient and easy—for everyone,” said Tom Ward, senior vice president, last mile delivery, Walmart U.S.
Here’s how it works:
- Customers open the Zipline app, order the products they would like delivered and select a delivery time at checkout.
- A Walmart associate picks and packs the products and hands the package off to Zipline staff, who prepare the aircraft for launch.
- The aircraft departs to the customers’ home, drops the package and returns to a 25-foot platform. Customers can track the status of the aircraft through the Zipline app.
Customers can expect the delivery in 15 to 30 minutes. There’s no delivery fee, and the drops are accurate to the space of a “a couple of parking spaces,” says Zipline. At full capacity, Zipline’s aircraft can service a 50-mile radius, nearly the size of the state of Connecticut.
Over the past three years, Walmart has scaled its delivery network to more than 3,000 stores reaching 70% of the U.S. population and growing. The retailer has accomplished this through a combination of third-party delivery providers, service providers on the Spark Driver platform and associate delivery drivers. In August, Walmart launched Walmart GoLocal, a service that delivers products to customers for other businesses. Home Depot hired Walmart via the platform for same-day and next-day deliveries on smaller, home-improvement-type products—the first retail company to use Walmart GoLocal.
Walmart also has started to utilize autonomous trucks for its online grocery sector, partnering with startup Gatik. Walmart and Gatik have operated two fully driverless trucks on a seven-mile loop for 12 hours. The trucks are loaded up at a Walmart fulfillment center, and then the orders are taken to a nearby Walmart Neighborhood Market grocery store in Bentonville. The partnership is focused on the middle mile—the transport of goods within the supply chain most often from a warehouse to a fulfillment center or a warehouse to a retailer.