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Behind Walmart’s Burgeoning Drone Program

Retailer gives update on its newest delivery service
Emily Crowe, Progressive Grocer
Walmart Ups the Ante on Drone Delivery
Walmart's drone delivery program has extended to seven states with the potential for more in the future.

Walmart is taking to the skies in a big way as it ramps up its 30-minute drone delivery program. The retailer, along with its partner DroneUp, now operates drone delivery hubs in seven states, including Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina, Texas, Utah and Virginia.

Walmart has completed more than 6,000 deliveries to customers over the past year, with the top five drone delivery items being Great Value Cookies and Cream Ice Cream, 2-pound bags of lemons, Freshness Guaranteed Hot Rotisserie Chicken, Red Bull and Bounty Select-a-Size Paper Towels. According to the retailer, 85% of items in a Walmart Neighborhood Market meet the 10-pound weight and volume requirements for drone delivery.

“I’m incredibly proud of our team for creating the largest drone delivery footprint of any U.S. retailer and providing customers with an incredibly fast – and innovative – option for delivery,” said Vik Gopalakrishnan, VP, innovation and automation at Walmart U.S., “We’re encouraged by the positive response from customers and look forward to making even more progress in 2023.”

Walmart brought three of those states online in December, including Arizona, Florida and Texas. Shoppers in the Phoenix, Tampa, Orlando and Dallas areas can place drone delivery orders, and the retailer says it is uniquely positioned to offer drone delivery at scale and provide even more customers with the option of drone delivery in the years ahead.

For its part, DroneUp’s drones are guided by certified pilots who operate within FAA guidelines. Each delivery hub has different guidelines for delivery area, ranging from a quarter mile to one mile from a given store.

“Our mission is to set the gold standard for drone delivery and by partnering with Walmart, bring the incredible benefits that drones offer to local communities, organizations, and businesses,” explained Tom Walker, CEO of Virginia-based DroneUp. “Our approach is unique; we practice safety above all else and incorporate state-of-the-art technology. Our strong relationship with the FAA has also been critical to our success as we build an infrastructure that supports growth and great career programs for operators now and in the future.”

Each week, approximately 230 million customers and members visit Walmart’s more than 10,500 stores and numerous e-commerce websites under 46 banners in 24 countries. The Bentonville, Ark.-based company employs approximately 2.3 million associates worldwide. Walmart U.S. is No. 1 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.

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