Less than one week after Walmart launched a pilot with end-to-end drone delivery company Flytrex, the retailer is making another big drone-delivery announcement. Walmart is teaming up with Zipline to launch on-demand deliveries of select health-and-wellness products, with the potential to expand to general merchandise.
Zipline began operating in late 2016 in Rwanda, focused on using its launch and release system to allow for quick on-demand delivery of medical supplies. To date, the South San Francisco, California-based company has safely delivered more than 200,000 critical medical products to thousands of health facilities serving more than 20 million people across multiple countries.
The Walmart collaboration is Zipline's first of this kind in the United States. Trial deliveries will take place near Walmart's headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, but the service can extend to a 50-mile radius from the Walmart store there.
The system allows for on-demand delivery in under an hour and also eliminates carbon emissions, as the drones are battery powered.
"The operation will likely begin early next year, and, if successful, we’ll look to expand," wrote Tom Ward, SVP, customer product at Walmart, in a blog post. "We’ll never stop looking into and learning about what the next best technology is and how we can use it to better serve our customers now and into the future."
Walmart's drone delivery pilot through Israel-based Flytrex is underway now in Fayetteville, North Carolina, with select grocery and household items.
Walmart, however, isn't the only big retailer investing in drones. Last month, Amazon’s Prime Air received approval from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, a vital step in the e-commerce operator’s plan to operate a drone package-delivery service.
Bentonville, Arkansas-based Walmart operates more than 11,300 stores under 58 banners in 27 countries, and e-commerce websites, employing 2.2 million-plus associates worldwide. Walmart U.S. is No. 1 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer's list of the top food retailers in North America, while Walmart-owned Sam's Club ranks No. 9 on the list.