Walmart to introduce app-based drone delivery


The world’s largest retailer is bringing drone delivery to the masses.

Walmart on Thursday announced that later this month, customers in the fast-growing Dallas-Fort Worth area will be able to order drone delivery directly through the company’s app, with orders arriving in as little as 30 minutes.

Since introducing drone delivery in 2021, Walmart says it has completed more than 30,000 deliveries. As of January, the firm’s DFW service — operated in partnership with industry titans Zipline and Wing, the drone delivery arm of Google parent Alphabet — covers an estimated 1.8 million households.

Not all of these customers will be eligible for drone delivery through the Walmart app, at least not at first.

The retailer described the integration as a phased rollout that will add customers “as more drone delivery sites launch and drone providers receive additional regulatory approvals to fly more goods across greater distances.” Those eligible for delivery, based on the address linked to their account, will be notified through the app.

It’s unclear to exactly which regulatory approvals Walmart is referring. But it’s worth noting that Zipline, Wing and another Walmart partner, DroneUp, have all received beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) exemptions from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The approval, awarded on a case-by-case basis, allows drone delivery firms to remove the visual observers (VOs) the agency normally requires to keep an eye on the aircraft. Typically, VOs are replaced by a combination of detect-and-avoid technology and remote pilots. The companies believe this reduced human capital will allow them to fly longer routes.

Walmart enlisted Wing for its DFW service in August, and the partners now fly out of four Walmart stores in the suburbs. The drone delivery firm has made a point of building technology that can integrate with its partners’ existing networks.

Physical infrastructure is limited to a fenced-in area that typically takes up a fraction of the store’s parking space. The company is also developing a device called the Autoloader, which enables what is essentially curbside pickup, but using drones. Rather than load orders into the aircraft themselves, store associates would simply place them on the curb, and the Autoloader would do the rest.

Another recent innovation is a suite of APIs allowing partners to add drone delivery directly to their e-commerce platforms — a tool Walmart will now leverage.

Walmart’s drone offering in app. (Photo: Walmart)

“Our goal is to make drone delivery completely seamless for our partners and their customers,” said Adam Woodworth, CEO of Wing. “When Wing drone delivery is available within the Walmart app later this month, customers will have a wider selection and a better shopping experience than ever before. This is a major step toward making drone delivery a part of everyday life.”

The company also has a drone delivery integration with DoorDash, which in 2022 became the first company to make a service available through a third-party app. The partnership began in Australia, Wing’s largest market. But the firm in March added fast-food delivery from Wendy’s in Christiansburg, Virginia, through the DoorDash app.

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