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Walmart Invests in Last-Mile Drone Delivery: ‘The Sky’s the Limit’

After safely completing hundreds of drone deliveries from Walmart stores, the mass merchant is making an investment in DroneUp to continue developing a scalable last-mile delivery solution, John Furner, CEO and president of Walmart U.S., said.

The news follows Walmart’s prior drone tests with Flytrex and Zipline, a service that began operating in 2016 by delivering medical supplies on demand in Rwanda.

Last year, Walmart partnered with DroneUp, a nationwide drone services provider, to launch trial deliveries of at-home COVID-19 self-collection kits. Furner said the trial demonstrated the big-box retailer could offer customers delivery in minutes versus hours.

DroneUp operates an on-demand drone delivery network that matches its database of more than 10,000 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certified pilots to missions nationwide.

“Since partnering with DroneUp last year, we’ve valued their technological expertise, world-class operations and experienced management team–and their commitment to helping the FAA ensure the highest levels of safety with every delivery,” Furner said. “As a well-respected industry innovator, DroneUp was the first operator to use the FAA 107.39 waiver, an operation that allows for delivery flights to be conducted over people and moving vehicles.”

DroneUp operates commercially throughout the U.S. and is an authorized government drone services provider for 11 states serving public sector organizations. Furner noted that Walmart already has a significant part of the infrastructure in place, with 4,700 stores stocked with more than 100,000 of the most-purchased items, located within 10 miles of 90 percent of the U.S. population.

“This makes us uniquely positioned to execute drone deliveries, which is why our investment in DroneUp won’t just apply to the skies, but also the ground,” he said. “In the coming months we’ll be beginning our first operation at a store in Bentonville, Ark.”

In April, Walmart announced a similar investment in Cruise, an all-electric autonomous vehicle company. Through these commitments, Furner said the company is learning how these technologies can get customers the items they need.

“Conducting drone deliveries at scale is within reach,” he added. “DroneUp’s expertise, combined with our retail footprint and proven history of logistics innovation, puts us right where we want to be for that day. Because when it comes to the future of drone delivery, we know the sky’s the limit.”