The retailer has teamed with drone company Flytrex to test on-demand delivery in Fayetteville, N.C., with the initial test focusing on delivering select grocery and household essential items from Walmart stores using Flytrex’s automated drones.
The drones will also provide the retailer with customer and associate insight for the complete path to purchase, said Tom Ward, Walmart senior VP, customer product.
“We know that it will be some time before we see millions of packages delivered via drone,” Ward acknowledged. “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.”
He pointed to the company’s use of autonomous vehicle work with Gatik, Ford and Nuro as examples of valuable insight into the role of self-driving vehicles within its business.
The use of drones for delivering has become an especially attractive option for retailers during these days of social distancing and contactless transactions, and 58% of retailers in the recent RIS News Supply Chain Technology Study cited home delivery as critical to success. What’s more, 40% of retailer said accelerating last-mile fulfillment to customers is a top supply chain strategy to drive sales and margins for this year.
Amazon, of course, was among the first large-scale retailers to publically explore the use of drone delivery, and the retailer was designated as an air carrier by the Federal Aviation Administration last month.
The system, which enables batch picking of multiple orders at once, is designed so it can be scaled down to a small backroom micro-fulfillment center or scaled up for use in a dark store or even mass distribution center.