Walmart is investing in drone delivery after a successful pilot showed encouraging results, joining retailers like Kroger in accelerating fulfillment-via-flight ambitions.
The company partnered with DroneUp last year for hundreds of trial deliveries of at-home COVID-19 self-collection kits. Its additional investment in DroneUp will enable it to continue work toward developing a scalable last-mile delivery solution, said John Furner, Walmart U.S. CEO and president.
The retailer will start its first drone operation at a Bentonville, AR, store in the coming months.
DroneUp has an on-demand drone delivery network with more than 10,000 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-certified pilots. It was the first operator to use the FAA 107.39 waiver, which allows delivery flights to be conducted over people and moving vehicles, according to Walmart.
It’s also an authorized government drone services provider for 11 U.S. states serving public sector groups and operates commercially across the country.
“Conducting drone deliveries at scale is within reach,” said Furner. “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.”
Walmart has also experimented with drone delivery through a partnership with Flytrex, testing grocery delivery in Fayetteville, NC.
Separately, Walmart introduced a free digital wallet for consumers to store their health information, including their COVID-19 vaccine.
Offering an alternative to the wrinkled paper cards from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) many now carry in their wallets, Walmart and Sam’s Club customers can create a digital vaccine record that can be printed, saved on a device or shared via a QR code.
The records can store such details as the person’s name, date of birth, date of vaccination, vaccine manufacturer, vaccine lot number and location where they received the immunization. It is available to anyone over 18 who received a COVID-19 vaccine at a Walmart or Sam’s Club pharmacy or a Walmart-run vaccine event.
In order to preserve privacy, Walmart uses the SMART Health Cards standard defined by the Vaccination Credential Initiative. Under this, the digital vaccine record can be safely and privately shared with other compatible services if someone chooses, following all HIPAA privacy guidelines, the retailer said, including Health Pass by CLEAR, and the free CommonPass and CommonHealth apps from The Common Project Foundation.
To access them, consumers can log into their Walmart or Sam’s Club account and request the vaccine record as a QR code. The retailer expects to add functionality that will enable families to bundle their records and/or access records for children.
“We are committed to giving people convenient, secure access to their health data, starting with COVID-19 vaccine immunization records,” said Dr. Cheryl Pegus, executive VP, Walmart health and wellness. “Our tool gives individuals a safe method to privately keep track of this information on their smartphone or computer, while also encouraging them to take ownership of their health data by determining exactly where, when, or if they share their documentation.”