Walmart (NYSE:WMT) launched an on-demand drone delivery service in Fayetteville, North Carolina in partnership with Flytrex. This pilot program allows Walmart customers to have their purchases delivered by autonomous drones. The Flytrex drones hover about 100 feet above homes and then lower goods to the ground using a wire. Learn more here.
In an interview with Benzinga, Flytrex CEO Yariv Bash reported that these drones can make up to 15 deliveries per hour within a 60 mile radius. In a time of contactless delivery, this is disruptive.
The discussion around the use of autonomous drones vs. autonomous vehicles is still active, and we might find Walmart using both for different types of deliveries. Walmart has previously partnered with Ford, Gatik, and Nuro to explore the use of autonomous vehicles.
For now, this pilot will inform future investments (and potentially acquisitions) or partnerships. In the blog post that announced the pilot, Tom Ward, SVP of Customer Product reports
“We know that it will be some time before we see millions of packages delivered via drone. That still feels like a bit of science fiction, but we’re at a point where we’re learning more and more about the technology that is available and how we can use it to make our customers’ lives easier”
Unlike suburbs and rural neighborhoods, urban neighborhoods offer challenges. The technology will have to safely navigate and deliver groceries where backyards, roof top decks, and big balconies are a luxury. Autonomous delivery systems will really be a disruptor to the delivery gig economy but it won’t stop there, since we have delivery supply chain bottlenecks in many industries from retail clothing stores to hospital blood banks. It will be exciting to follow the progress here.