(TNS) — Kroger is working with a Monroe company to deliver groceries via drones — and new regional jobs are possible as a result.
The Kroger Co. and Drone Express Monday announced a pilot to offer grocery delivery via autonomous drones.
The facility New Jersey-based Drone Express established in Monroe will serve as a hub for the manufacturing, testing and piloting of autonomous drones for commercial package delivery, a representative of the company said.
Drone Express estimates that it will need to fill 50 to 100 full-time positions as the 7,200 square-foot facility becomes fully operational in the next few months.
Positions include those focused on manufacturing, mechanical engineering, software development and aviation. As the pilot program with Kroger continues to expand, there is the potential for additional positions and hiring throughout 2021 and beyond.
Referred to as “The Hive,” the Monroe facility is expected to be one of the largest in the state dedicated to the manufacture, testing and piloting of drones for commercial use.
Drone Express will commence test flights this week near the Kroger Marketplace in Centerville, at 1095 South Main St. The flights will be managed by licensed Drone Express pilots from an on-site trailer with additional off-site monitoring.
Questions were sent to a Drone Express representative about local testing plans.
Customer deliveries are scheduled to begin later this spring, and a second pilot is scheduled to launch this summer at a Ralphs store in California.
The Monroe facility will be home to the company’s unmanned air traffic control center that manages. There, employees will oversee drone flights and commercial delivery programs, according to Drone Express. The center is in contact with Drone Express mobile aviation trailers that house the drone pilots and are located onsite where drone delivery is being offered.
“Kroger’s new drone delivery pilot is part of the evolution of our rapidly growing and innovative e-commerce business — which includes pickup, delivery and ship and reached more than $10 billion in sales in 2020,” Kroger’s Jody Kalmbach, group vice president of product experience, said in a joint release from the two companies. “The pilot reinforces the importance of flexibility and immediacy to customers, powered by modern and efficient last-mile solutions. We’re excited to test drone delivery and gain insights that will inform expansion plans as well as future customer solutions.”
The idea is to allow package delivery to the location of a customer’s smartphone.
The current weight limit for drone delivery is about five pounds.
As an example of the service possible, Kroger will offer a baby care bundle with wipes and formula, a child wellness bundle with over-the-counter medications and fluids, and a S’mores bundle with graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate. Using https://www.kroger.com/dronedelivery, customers can place orders and have eligible orders delivered within as little as 15 minutes.
“Autonomous drones have unlimited potential to improve everyday life, and our technology opens the way to safe, secure, environmentally friendly deliveries for Kroger customers,” said Beth Flippo, chief technology officer of TELEGRID. “The possibilities for customers are endless — we can enable Kroger customers to send chicken soup to a sick friend or get fast delivery of olive oil if they run out while cooking dinner.”
Drone Express is a division of TELEGRID Technologies.
“The launch of the pilot in Centerville is the culmination of months of meticulous research and development by Kroger and Drone Express to better serve and meet the needs of our customers,” said Ethan Grob, Kroger’s director of last mile strategy and product. “We look forward to progressing from test flights to customer deliveries this spring, introducing one more way for our customers to experience Kroger.”
“Kroger and Drone Express made a great choice in piloting this program in Centerville — a community with a robust business network focused on progress and stability near the birthplace of aviation,” said Centerville Mayor Brooks Compton. “Families here have the power to transform grocery delivery around the nation and the globe. We look forward to placing our first order.”
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