Walmart launches drone delivery service within a 50-mile radius of its store in northwest Arkansas

Residents of northwestern Arkansas will now see drones soaring through the sky, delivering goods to people’s homes that have been ordered from the local Walmart Neighborhood Market.

Walmart and its partner, drone maker Zipline, rolled out the service Thursday, saying it will ship ‘thousands of products’ to customers within a 50-mile radius of the Pea Ridge store.

The companies designed a ‘first of its kind’ 25-foot-high platform, located at the rear of Walmart, which serves as infrastructure for takeoff and landing drones.

Orders are placed through the Zipline app, which is collected by Walmart employees, who then deliver them to the Zipline staff, who prepare the aircraft for launch.

Residence in northwest Arkansas will now see drones soar through the sky to deliver goods to people's homes ordered from the local Walmart Neighborhood Market

Residence in northwest Arkansas will now see drones soar through the sky to deliver goods to people’s homes ordered from the local Walmart Neighborhood Market

Walmart has made a huge push into the drone delivery market over the years as it has implemented pilot programs in several states such as North Carolina and Texas.

The Arkansas service, though still a test, seems to be the company’s biggest effort to date.

Tom Ward, senior vice president, Last Mile Delivery, Walmart, said in a announcement: ‘Zipline’s autonomous aircraft provide an incredible opportunity to offer customers a delivery option as needed 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 instant access to necessary items for both hard-to-reach and vulnerable populations, such as rural and elderly customers. By bringing this game-changing technology to the rural areas of Pea Ridge, Arkansas, we continue to look for ways to make shopping with Walmart convenient and easy – for everyone. ‘

The companies designed a 'first of its kind' 25-foot-high platform, located at the rear of Walmart, which serves as an infrastructure for launching and landing drones.

The companies designed a ‘first of its kind’ 25-foot-high platform, located at the rear of Walmart, which serves as an infrastructure for launching and landing drones.

Orders to the Walmart Store are placed using a Zipline delivery app, which gives users an arrival time for their order

Orders to the Walmart Store are placed using a Zipline delivery app, which gives users an arrival time for their order

Items are packed in specially designed boxes equipped with a parachute

Items are packed in specially designed boxes equipped with a parachute

Zipline began operations 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 couple 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 companies collect more performance data.

Zipline told The edge that users qualified for drone delivery have been ‘hand-picked’.

Orders are packed in specially designed packages equipped with a parachute given to staff working on the Zipline platform.

The box, which can hold no more than four pounds of goods, is placed inside the drone’s belly, which is then fired at the delivery destination.

The launch of the drone delivery service comes just 11 days after Walmart announced it was using fully driverless trucks to bring groceries from a delivery center to its Bentonville, Arkansas supermarket, in a move that will reduce costs and address the ongoing labor shortage affecting the retail supply chains.

The drones are fired like a slingshot from the platform located behind the Walmart location

The drones are fired 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 began delivering on the “middle mile” of the supply chain – between “dark stores” that have been shut down and turned into delivery centers, and operational supermarkets.

After driving 70,000 operational miles, it finally took off its training wheels two months ago and removed the safety driver.

This represents the first time that an independent haulage 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 launch of the drone delivery service comes just 11 days after Walmart announced it was using fully driverless trucks to bring groceries from a service center to its Bentonville, Arkansas supermarket,

The launch of the drone delivery service comes just 11 days after Walmart announced it was using fully driverless trucks to bring groceries from a service center to its Bentonville, Arkansas supermarket,

Ward said in its release earlier this month that autonomous vans ‘offer an efficient, safe and sustainable solution for transporting goods on repeat routes between our stores.’

“We are excited to work with Gatik to achieve this industry-leading, 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.

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