Walmart teams up with Zipline for one-hour deliveries by drone

Drones. Illustration Photo: Aerogondo/Dreamstime
Monday 14 September Walmart revealed it will be trialing one-hour autonomous drone deliveries in 2021. The retail giant said it had established a partnership with Zipline, a medical supply drone delivery company. Photo: Aerogondo/Dreamstime
By Reidar Molthe

23 September 2020 10:02

Walmart teams up with Zipline for one-hour deliveries by drone

The retail giant and the drone company will start trials in early 2021.

Walmart facts

Walmart Inc., formerly Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., is engaged in the operation of retail, wholesale, and other units in various formats around the world.

The Company offers an assortment of merchandise and services at everyday low prices (EDLP).

The Company operates through three segments: Walmart U.S., Walmart International and Sam's Club.

The Walmart U.S. segment includes the Company's mass merchant concept in the United States operating under the Walmart brands, as well as digital retail.

The Company operates approximately 11,600 stores under 59 banners in 28 countries and e-commerce Websites in 11 countries.

There is no shortage of drone delivery startups trying to take package delivery into a new era, but few have the track record of US-based Zipline (Atlas News).

The company has announced a new partnership with Walmart to conduct pilot trials where its drones will fulfil health and wellness orders in one hour, with hopes of expanding to general merchandise if the first runs are successful.

Started in Rwanda

Zipline made its start in Rwanda towards the end of 2016, delivering blood from distribution hubs to transfusion facilities in remote regions, using its fixed-wing aircraft to overcome troublesome terrain.

It has since expanded to deliver other medical supplies and begun operations in Tanzania and Ghana, recently celebrating the completion of its 200,000th delivery.

This makes Zipline's service the world’s largest drone delivery network, and now Walmart hopes to tap into its expertise to streamline its business operations in the US.

Out of Arkansas

Announced last week, the trials will operate out of Walmart’s headquarters in Arkansas, with Zipline’s drones to service customers in a 50-mile (80-km) radius, according to Nick Lavars in Atlas News.

The drones will be loaded up with health and wellness products and use Zipline’s parachute deployment system to bring them safely to ground within one hour of being ordered, according to Walmart.

Walmart has been exploring the potential of drone delivery since 2015. The trials with Zipline will kick off in early 2021.

“Customers today are busier than ever, which is why every day we’re finding new ways to make their lives easier. At the same time, our history of innovation, a foundation laid by our founder Sam Walton, has us committed to learning how new technology can better serve customers. We recently announced we’re exploring how drones can deliver items in a way that’s convenient, safe and fast. In our latest initiative, we are teaming up with Zipline to launch a first-of-its-kind drone delivery operation in the U.S. The new service will make on-demand deliveries of select health and wellness products with the potential to expand to general merchandise,” says Tom Ward, Senior Vice President, Customer Product, Walmart.

“As we continue to build upon the foundation of innovation laid for us by Mr. Sam, we’ll never stop looking into and learning about what the next best technology is and how we can use it to better serve our customers now and into the future,” he concludes.

Challenges ahead

Delivering groceries that are both more volumnious and heavier possesses obviously technical challenges.

In addition, the ratio between value and weight/volume is lower, suggesting that the costs for grocery deliveries might be an obstacle.

Sources: New Atlas, Walmart, Charged,

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