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Walmart is Looking Skyward with Drone Deliveries to Consumers

Walmart has announced a significant strategic investment in drone service provider DroneUp, which could indicate a major move among retailers in the race to dominate last mile delivery.  Walmart opened its first store in Bentonville, Arkansas, in 1962, and for decades the company has been a major player in the retail discount-store business with locations in every state and in more than 25 countries worldwide.  Sixty years after the company’s inception, Walmart is emerging as a major player in residential drone delivery, moving forward with drone services provided by DroneUp.   Walmart has announced that its first drone delivery center will open in their founding state of Arkansas.   

Last mile delivery is supply chain management and transportation jargon to describe the final step of the process in a product's journey from warehouse shelf, to the back of a truck, to a customer’s doorstep — the point at which the package finally arrives at the buyer's door. In addition to being a key to customer satisfaction, last mile delivery is both the most expensive and time-consuming part of the shipping process.   www.businessinsider.com

Walmart President and CEO John Furner said, “Conducting drone deliveries at scale is within reach.  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 been testing drone programs since 2015, and rather than investing in building its own aircraft or developing its own pilot workforce, the company has applied for patents to describe new workflows and uses for drone technology. 

By leaving hardware development and drone services to specialized solution providers, Walmart can simply expand its core retail business of providing products to consumers.  There are 4,700 Walmart stores in the U.S., and 90 percent of the U.S. population lives within 10 miles of a Walmart.  Without substantial costs and investments in aircraft development, the company is within reach of becoming the first to make retail drone delivery highly profitable.

DroneUp previously partnered with Walmart with drone deliveries of COVID-19 test kits in Las Vegas and a new Coca-Cola product in Georgia.  The company is ramping up its growth strategies to support the Walmart business by hiring, partnering, and acquiring the best technology in the industry.  As a services provider, DroneUp has a patent on an automated system that allows a central agency to enter a job into a pilot network database to help determine which pilots are available and communicate with them via an app. 

DroneUp’s approach seems to spell progress for the entire drone industry.  ‘Drones’ are becoming anything but ‘monotonous, sustained sounds.’  Drones will one day become prevalent, and more Americans will begin to enjoy drone technology as a beneficial part of everyday life.