BENTONVILLE, Ark.—Walmart is expanding its DroneUp delivery network to 34 sites in six states by the end the year, reaching up to four million U.S. households to deliver over one million packages by drone each year.
The expanded autonomous delivery service will be available in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Texas, Utah and Virginia.
“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,” wrote Walmart in the release.
Walmart began testing drone deliveries late last year in Pea Ridge, Arkansas, near Walmart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas. Walmart partnered with Zipline for the service, and the retail giant also partnered with Flytrex to make deliveries from a Walmart store in North Carolina.
With the DroneUp delivery service, customers can order eligible items for delivery between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. and receive their order in as little as 30 minutes. The delivery fee is $3.99, and the order can only weigh up to 10 pounds.
Participating stores will house a DroneUp delivery hub inclusive of a team of certified pilots, operating within FAA guidelines, that manage flight operations. Once a customer places an order, the item is fulfilled from the store, packaged, loaded into the drone and delivered to their yard using a cable that gently lowers the package.
Walmart also plans to offer local businesses and municipalities aerial drone solutions for industries such as 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,” wrote Walmart.
Walmart said earlier this year that it’s homing in on delivering convenience to its customers.
“We’ve watched in real time as people foundationally changed their shopping habits, spurred not just by a global pandemic, but by the expectation for availability to also mean convenience,” wrote Walmart. “That need for convenience led to six times the number of customers using delivery in the fourth quarter compared to pre-pandemic levels, signaling a huge change in how our customers shop.”
Walmart says it’s delivering convenience to customers through its Walmart InHome service, which transports customers’ purchases straight into their kitchen or garage refrigerator, as well as picking up Walmart.com returns. It scaled the service to 30 million U.S. homes, up from six million, and hired 3,000 additional associates to captain an electric fleet of delivery vehicles.
Last 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 launched autonomous trucks for its online grocery sector, partnering with startup Gatik.
Drone deliveries have been quietly taking off, with Amazon and Alphabet joining Walmart in utilizing the service.