drone pilot industryWalmart Invests In DroneUp, A Last Mile Delivery Solution

June 20, 2021by helo-10

Walmart has been experimenting with last mile delivery solutions with everything from autonomous electric cars to incentivizing sales associates to deliver packages on their routes home from work. Now, the company is looking toward the sky as it aims to deliver orders faster with drones, and compete with Amazon
, which has its own fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles. To do so, Walmart is making an undisclosed investment in service provider, DroneUp.

“In our ongoing effort to get customers the items they want – and fast – we know it will take a well-coordinated network of delivery solutions that span the streets, sidewalks and skies,” said John Furner, president and CEO of Walmart U.S. “Some of these solutions are still emerging but they’re already showing encouraging results.”

Walmart last year partnered with DroneUp to launch a trial of deliveries of at-home Covid-19 self-collection kits. The trial demonstrated that the retailer could offer customers delivery in minutes versus hours. “Now, after safely completing hundreds of drone deliveries from Walmart
stores, we’re making an investment in DroneUp to continue our work toward developing a scalable last mile delivery solution,” Furner said.

DroneUp operates an on-demand drone delivery network that matches its database of more than 10,000 Federal Aviation Administration certified pilots to missions nationwide. Since partnering with DroneUp last year, Walmart saw first hand its technological expertise, world-class operations and experienced management team – and its commitment to helping the FAA ensure the highest levels of safety with every delivery.

The unmanned aerial vehicle company is a “well-respected industry innovator,” Furner said, adding that DroneUp was the first operator to use the FAA 107.39 waiver, an operation that allows delivery flights to be conducted over people and moving vehicles. DroneUp operates commercially throughout the U.S. and is an authorized government drone services provider for 11 U.S. states serving public sector organizations.

“The drone services industry has reached an inflection point of rapidly increased adoption and acceptance,” said Tom Walker, founder and CEO of DroneUp. “Walmart and DroneUp are uniquely positioned to succeed in the next chapter of last-mile delivery. Walmart’s vast hub-and-spoke network, combined with DroneUp’s extensive operational expertise, will unlock affordable rapid delivery and nationwide drone services.”

Furner noted that Walmart already has a significant part of the infrastructure necessary for drone delivery in place, including 4,700 stores stocked with more than 100,000 of the most-purchased items, located within 10 miles of 90% of the U.S. population. “This makes us uniquely positioned to execute drone deliveries, which is why our investment in DroneUp won’t just apply to the skies but also the ground,” he said. “In the coming months we’ll be beginning our first operation at a store in Bentonville, Arkansas [where the retailer is headquartered].

A spokeswoman said the retailer has been exploring drone delivery and how it can be used in Walmart’s for some time. In addition to DroneUp, Walmart has worked with Zipline and Flytrex.

Walmart in April announced a similar investment in Cruise, an all-electric autonomous vehicle company to pilot delivery via all-electric self-driving cars with Cruise, a General Motors
majority-owned company. The retailer is conducting a test in Scottsdale, Arizona, where Cruise’s fleet of vehicles is powered by 100 percent renewable energy, supporting Walmart’s goal of zero emissions by 2040.

As part of the pilot customers can place an order from their local store and have it delivered, contact-free, by one of Cruise’s all-electric self-driving cars. The technology has the potential to not only save customers time and money but also is helpful to the planet, the retailer said.

“Through these commitments, we’re learning how these technologies can get customers the items they need” the Walmart spokeswoman said.

Amazon’s Prime Air, a delivery system designed to safely get packages to customers in 30 minutes or less using unmanned aerial vehicles, “has great potential to enhance the services we already provide to millions of customers by offering rapid parcel delivery that will also increase the overall safety and efficiency of the transportation system,” the company said.

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