Walgreens to Test Drone Delivery in October

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Walgreens to Test Drone Delivery in October

By Jamie Grill-Goodman - 09/20/2019
Walgreens will be the first retailer in the U.S. to test an on-demand drone delivery service with Wing in Christiansburg, VA next month. Credit: Wing

It’s a bird, it’s a plane. It’s Walgreens?

Starting in October the drugstore retailer is taking delivery to sky, testing on demand air delivery with Alphabet’s drone delivery service Wing.

The test will offer drone delivery service to “eligible” residents of Christiansburg, VA, which has a population of 22,000. To the lucky few who get to observe the next-gen delivery tech firsthand, the pilot program will offer home delivery “minutes” after consumers place orders via the Wing app.  

“Walgreens continues to explore partnerships to transform and modernize our customer experience and we are proud to be the first retailer in the U.S. to offer an on-demand commercial drone delivery option with Wing,” said Vish Sankaran, CIO, Walgreens Boots Alliance.  “With a customer-led focus, we continue to create differentiated shopping experiences that provide the products and services consumers need wherever, whenever and however they may want them.  This is the kind of omnichannel partnership and offering that can redefine convenience for our customers and communities – delivering items to homes in minutes, not hours or days.”

Wing has been working closely with Virginia Tech in Blacksburg to test drone delivery as part of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Integration Pilot Program since 2016, which led to Christiansburg being picked as the test market. Drone delivery in the U.S. has been limited to small-scale demonstrations on designated test sites, or extremely short flights along pre-planned, fixed routes – all within the visual line of sight of the drone operator. Earlier this year, Wing became the first drone operator to be certified as an air carrier by the Federal Aviation Administration, allowing it to deliver commercial goods to recipients that may be miles away. Wing’s pilot program in Virginia will be conducted as part of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program (IPP).

During the pilot, eligible customers will have access to more than 100 products and six convenient “packs” via the Wing app. Customers can either choose the individual products or one of the pre-built packs in the following categories: allergy, baby, cough/cold, first aid, pain, and kids’ snacks. The drone delivery option meets use cases where customers may want health and wellness or food and beverage items immediately, but leaving home is not ideal. 

For example, the “baby pack” has items such as baby aspirin and water so parents don’t have to take a sick child to the store and the “cough/cold pack” is designed so customers with a common cold or flu can avoid spreading germs to others. Prescription deliveries will not available during the pilot.

In addition to Walgreens shoppers, FedEx customers who live within designated delivery zones will also be able to receive some of their packages via the drone tests and Southwest Virginia retailer Sugar Magnolia will make a range of gift items available as part of the trial.

“Wing has spent the last six years developing a delivery drone and navigation system for this moment,” said Wing CEO James Ryan Burgess. “By delivering small packages directly to homes provides through the air, and making a wide range of medicine, food and other products available to customers on demand, minutes after they are requested, we hope to provide a glimpse of what safer, faster, cleaner local delivery could look like in the future.” 

“FedEx is constantly innovating, testing and developing solutions to meet growing customer needs, and we are excited to add this pilot to our portfolio of first in-kind innovation,” said Don Colleran, FedEx Express President and CEO.

Christiansburg area residents interested in registering or learning more about the pilot program can visit wing.com/Virginia