Residents in northwest Arkansas will now see drones soaring through the sky that are delivering goods to people’s homes who ordered from the local Walmart Neighborhood Market.
Walmart and its partner, drone-maker Zipline, rolled out the service on Thursday, and said it will ship ‘thousands of products’ to customers within a 50-mile radius of the store in Pea Ridge.
The companies designed a ‘first-of-its kind’ 25-foot-tall platform, located the back of the Walmart, which serves as the infrastructure for take-off and landing for drones.
Orders are placed through the Zipline app, which are collected by Walmart employees who then hand them off to Zipline staff, who prepare the aircraft for launch.
Residence in northwest Arkansas will now see drones soaring through the sky to deliver goods to people’s homes who ordered from the local Walmart Neighborhood Market
Walmart has a made huge push into the drone delivery market over the years, as it has conducted pilot programs in several states such as North Carolina and Texas.
However, the Arkansas service, although still a test, seems to be the company’s largest effort to date.
Tom Ward, senior vice president, Last Mile Delivery, Walmart, said in a statement: ‘Zipline’s autonomous aircraft present an incredible opportunity to offer customers an on-demand delivery option for the items they need now, such as a thermometer, non-prescription medication or an emergency pack of diapers.
‘Even more, Zipline’s aircraft can help provide immediate access to needed items for both hard-to-reach and at-risk populations, such as rural communities and elderly customers. By bringing this game-changing technology to the rural community of Pea Ridge, Arkansas, we’re continuing to look for ways to make shopping with Walmart convenient and easy – for everyone.’
The companies designed a ‘first-of-its kind’ 25-foot-tall platform, located the back of the Walmart, which serves as the infrastructure for take-off and landing for drones
Orders to the Walmart store are placed using a Zipline deliver app, which provides users with an arrival time for their order
Items are packed inside specially designed boxes equipped with a parachute
Zipline began operating in 2016 and has completed more than 200,000 commercial deliveries of over 4.5 million units of medical supplies, serving more than 20 million people across multiple countries.
And the pair announced their drone delivery service in September 2020.
The test is currently only available to a ‘small percentage’ of customers, but is set to expand its reach as the firms collect more performance data.
Zipline told The Verge that users eligible for the drone delivery have been ‘hand-selected.’
Orders are packed in specially designed packages equipped with a parachute that are give to staff working at the Zipline platform.
The box, which holds no more than four pounds of goods, is placed inside the belly of the drone, which is then launched to the delivery destination.
The drone delivery service launch comes just 11 days after Walmart announced it is using fully driverless trucks to bring groceries from a fulfillment center to its Bentonville, Arkansas supermarket, in a move that will cut costs and address the ongoing labor shortage affecting retail supply chains.
The drones are launched like a slingshot from the platform located behind the Walmart location
After receiving approval from the Arkansas State Highway Commission in December 2020, Gatik’s trucks started making deliveries on the ‘middle mile’ of the supply chain — between ‘dark stores,’ which have been shut down and turned into fulfillment centers, and operational supermarkets.
After racking up 70,000 operational miles, two months ago it finally took off the training wheels and removed the safety driver.
This represents the first time that an autonomous trucking company has removed the human driver from a commercial delivery route on the middle mile anywhere in the world, according to a joint release from Walmart and Gatik.
The drone delivery service launch comes just 11 days after Walmart announced it is using fully driverless trucks to bring groceries from a fulfillment center to its Bentonville, Arkansas supermarket,
Ward said in the release from earlier this month that autonomous box trucks ‘offer an efficient, safe and sustainable solution for transporting goods on repeatable routes between our stores.’
‘We’re thrilled to be working with Gatik to achieve this industry-first, driverless milestone in our home state of Arkansas and look forward to continuing to use this technology to serve Walmart customers with speed,’ he added.