Walmart announced on Tuesday that it plans to expand the number of shops offering drone packages; by the end of the year, it hopes to deliver from 34 sites in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Texas, Utah and Virginia. The company says the expansion will give up to 4 million households access to the service, a significant increase. When the company launched the program in November 2021, it was only available in one city in Arkansas.

Walmart says customers who live near drone stores will be able to order items weighing less than 10 pounds between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Deliveries, which cost $ 3.99, are made by a drone operated by a company called DroneUp, which has a partnership with Walmart. (The retailer has also invests in the supply company.) Workers at Walmart’s location receive the order, pack it in a box, and then attach the box to a drone. The pilot then throws the drone at the client and he lands on their front lawn, using what looks like a giant claw.

It’s like playing with a nail machine, but vice versa.
GIF: Walmart

It seems that Walmart is not just trying to expand the program’s footprint – the company also wants to increase the number of packages it delivers via drone. In a press release, the company said it had completed “hundreds of deliveries in a matter of months”. The expansion says it will be able to deliver more than a million drones a year.

In a press release, the company said it believes people will use the “emergency items” service and is surprised that something like the Hamburger Helper has become the best-selling item in one place. I will be completely honest, I am skeptical of this statement – how could someone introduce a service where the package is delivered to you in just 30 minutes and no do you expect people to use it to replace these quick trips to the store to pick up one or two items?

With this planned expansion, Walmart can take the lead when it comes to commercial drone delivery in the United States. The Wall Street Journal reports that while companies such as FedEx and UPS are looking for drones, they are currently in the experimental phase rather than “offering it as a service phase”. Alphabet, Google’s parent company, operates a drone delivery service called Wing in Texas and Virginia, and is deliver hundreds of thousands of packages worldwide, but has not yet announced further expansion plans.

Then, of course, there is Amazon, which has been working on its drone delivery service for many years. However, several recent reports give the impression that the company is struggling to get its program off the ground; despite demonstration delivery in the UK in 2016, Amazon is not currently delivering packages via drones and it is unclear if and when this will begin.

However, Amazon is trying to play a very different game. He wants his drone supplies to be autonomous, which means there will be no human pilots. However, the Walmart and DroneUp system is headed by “certified pilots”. While this may make it difficult for Walmart to scale drone deliveries at a rapid pace, some of its customers may be accustomed to taking their packages off the sky; this is not something that can be said for amazon.

Like Ars Technique points out, however, the Walmart system has some limitations. Currently, drones are legally required to have visibility while flying, which means that there must be control towers in the parking lots of their stores to offer drone service. This restriction also means that deliveries must be made within 1.5 miles of the store. And, of course, DroneUp needs to hire more operators as more people use the service. Earlier this year, he announced plans for this, and now it’s clear why; now DroneUp and Walmart just have to keep their promises to expand.

https://www.theverge.com/2022/5/24/23139767/walmart-drone-delivery-service-expansion-six-states-droneup-packages

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