Walmart is partnering with medical supply drone delivery company Zipline to launch a drone delivery operation in the U.S. Initially, the service will make on-demand deliveries of select health and wellness products, with the potential to expand to general merchandise.
Trial deliveries will take place near Walmart’s headquarters in Arkansas using Zipline’s proprietary technology. Its launch and release system allows for quick on-demand delivery in less than an hour, and operating from a Walmart store, can service a 50-mile radius (approximately 80km).
Walmart says the operation will likely begin early next year, and with potential expansion on the cards if successful.
The new pilot programme with Zipline is the latest of Walmart’s moves toward wider drone use. Last week, the retail giant announced a small pilot programme in North Carolina using automated drones from startup Flytrex to deliver select groceries and household items.
Zipline, which operates the world’s largest drone delivery network, began operating in late 2016 in Rwanda primarily focusing on the on-demand delivery of medical supplies. To date, Zipline says it's safely delivered more than 200,000 critical medical products to thousands of health facilities serving more than 20 million people across multiple countries.