U.S. mega-retailer Walmart on Tuesday announced plans to launch its own drone delivery service in six states and 34 store locations, including Salt Lake City, in the coming year.
When it goes live, the new service will operate from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and allow customers within the delivery areas to order from tens of thousands of eligible items for delivery by air in as little as 30 minutes for a fee of $3.99, according to Walmart.
David Guggina, senior vice president of innovation and automation for Walmart U.S., said in a press release that customers can order up to 10 pounds of products for each delivery and, “simply put, if it fits safely it flies.”
Walmart has partnered with drone delivery specialist DroneUp for the new service and has been testing out the system since late last year at three locations near Walmart’s headquarters in Arkansas.
When the pilot program launched last November, DroneUp CEO Tom Walker said the new service was a “leap forward” in the use of unmanned drones in providing store-to-customer delivery operations.
“Teaming up with Walmart to launch three delivery hubs marks a significant leap forward in the broader use of UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) to provide last-mile consumer delivery services and supply chain efficiency options,” Walker said in a press statement last November. “Walmart and DroneUp provide an unrivaled ability to pick, pack, and deliver via drones directly from the store to consumers offering efficiencies no other retailer can match.”
The DroneUp delivery drones look like a beefed-up multirotor recreational drone and make deliveries by lowering payloads on a cable then releasing the packages just above the ground at their delivery targets.
A Walmart spokeswoman wasn’t able to provide a specific start date for Walmart’s drone delivery service in Salt Lake City.
Walmart’s drone delivery plans for Utah follows on the heels of Intermountain Healthcare’s announcement late last year that it has its own Salt Lake Valley drone delivery program in the works.
Intermountain is partnering with San Francisco-based drone delivery innovator Zipline to make its own leap into the future using a system that’s been in operation in international locations for some years now.
The Zipline drones are fixed-wing aircraft that measure 6 feet long and have an 11-foot wingspan. The drones weigh about 40 pounds and can transport packages of up to four pounds while cruising along at 70 mph. The aircraft fly autonomously, have a very low operational noise level and a round-trip range of 100 miles. Zipline drones drop packages via parachute.
In an April Deseret News story, Intermountain said it’s working to have its drone delivery system operational this summer. The program will coordinate drone transport of prescriptions and other medical supplies from a South Jordan flight center to customers within a 50-mile radius.