Walmart and DroneUp set up drone delivery hub in Arkansas

A drone carries a box for delivery from a Walmart in Farmington, Ark. (Walmart / DroneUp photo)

Walmart is partnering with Virginia-based DroneUp on a network of drone delivery hubs, starting with a neighborhood market in Farmington, Ark.

The move appears to put Walmart ahead of its retail rival, Amazon, in expanding the borders for air deliveries. Amazon announced its drone development program in 2013and two years ago, the company said regular drone deliveries were only a few months away. However, recent reports have hinted that Amazon Prime Air’s progress has slowed considerably.

We’ve reached out to Amazon and will update this report with any feedback.

Today’s announcement of the first Arkansas delivery centers comes 5 months after Walmart Strategic investment in DroneUp and signed a contract to expand the company’ pilot project of delivery by drone. (The investment amount was not disclosed.)

Flight engineers prepare a package for delivery by drone. (Walmart / DroneUp photo)

“When we invested in DroneUp earlier this year, we envisioned a drone delivery operation that could be quickly implemented and scaled across multiple stores,” said Tom Ward, vice president Walmart US senior president, said in a press release. “The opening of our first hub within months of our initial concept demonstrates DroneUp’s ability to safely execute drone delivery options at high speed. speed”.

The first is based at the Walmart Neighborhood Market in Farmington, which is part of a larger metropolitan area in the northwest corner of Arkansas. Two more centers are planned nearby at Walmart stores in Rogers and Bentonville.

“Partnering with Walmart to launch three delivery centers marks a significant step forward in broader use of UAS. [unmanned aerial systems] to provide end-to-end consumer delivery and supply chain efficiency,” said DroneUp CEO Tom Walker.

DroneUp is at least showing up like Walmart in shipping: Customers first check their eligibility on website, based on their street address. If they live in the vicinity of a drone hub, they can shop online for a limited amount of deliverables on the site, then pay shipping for the $10 order. la for delivery via airdrop.

An air traffic control tower rises above the DroneUp delivery hub. (Walmart / DroneUp photo)

Shipments – limited to a total of 5 pounds per lot – are packaged in boxes and dispatched from the DroneUp center located next to the Walmart store. A flight operator monitors the operation of the drone equipped with a camera from a control tower erected in the center. That avoids confusing regulatory issues that would arise when flying a drone beyond the operator’s line of sight. Deliveries can be made within 30 minutes, and the hub’s operation is designed to support multiple flights per hour.

The drone delivery service operates from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. CT, weather permitting.

DroneUp says it is working closely with the Federal Aviation Administration to ensure the safe operation of drones in national airspace, and has more than 190 active waivers and authorizations to assist pilots. their flight across the United States

The company says its system provides “a safe, fun, and convenient way for Walmart shoppers to get smaller packages delivered by drone directly to their home in the fastest way.” within 30 minutes from the time of placing the order”.

In the coming years, Walmart aims to become a leader in drone delivery, thanks to its network of more than 4,700 stores in the United States. Theoretically, each store could host a hub for neighborhood airdrops. But to compete, price-per-delivery will almost certainly be under $10, and restrictions on remotely managing drone operations will almost certainly have to be eased.

FAA still Work with industry partners, including Amazon, on technology capabilities and regulatory requirements that will be a must for large-scale operations involving autonomous delivery drones.

Over the past few years, Amazon has been testing drones in Washington state and just across the US-Canada border in British Columbiaand it has established drone development teams in England, France, Israeli and Shirt. In 2016, Amazon revealed that it was making a test delivery in an area around Cambridge in the UK; and in 2019, Jeff Wilke of Amazon unveiled a golf cart-sized drone that he says will “deliver to customers in a few months”. (Since then, Wilke has left Amazon.)

That timeline never passes. Amazon Prime Air managed won official FAA certification as an air carrier last year, and Amazon insists that it remains committed to making the dream of drone delivery a reality. Current company list over 100 open slots at Amazon Prime Air, with most of them based in the Seattle area. But there are also signs that Amazon has scaled back its drone delivery plan.

Even before the FAA certification, the Amazon lab was working on developing drones already replaced to focus on initiatives to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. In August, Wired UK reported that Amazon’s fleet of drones in the UK has been scaled after grappling with technical and managerial challenges. And this month, Bloomberg News reported that employees at Amazon’s drone research and development center in Paris has been reassigned to other projects.

Meanwhile, other companies include UPS (cooperating with CVS pharmacy chain), Soup (the Alphabet drone venture pioneered by Google), SkyDrop (formerly known as Flirt) and Zipline (It’s a also partner with Walmart in Arkansas) is racing to expand testing of its drone delivery service. Thanks to a partnership with Walmart, you can now add DroneUp to the list of leaders.

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