Walmart plans $3.99 drone deliveries in six states by year-end | Business

 Walmart plans $3.99 drone deliveries in six states by year-end | Business

Walmart Inc. and partner DroneUp LLC plans to expand their drone-delivery hubs to 34 locations in six states by the end of the year, making a major step toward increasing aerial dropoffs for shoppers in US despite major regulatory barriers remain.

Deliveries cost $ 3.99 and orders can weigh up to 10 pounds, Walmart said in a statement Tuesday. The expanded network has the potential to reach 4 million U.S. homes and give Walmart the capacity to deliver 1 million packages by air a year. But achieving the goals depends on changes in U.S. rules that now require flights to remain within the drone operator’s line of sight.

The milestone plan vaults Walmart’s partnership with DroneUp from a pilot project in northwest Arkansas to shoppers ’yards in parts of five more states: Arizona, Florida, Texas, Utah and Virginia. Tens of thousands of items including Tylenol, diapers and hot dog buns could qualify for drone delivery in a minimum of 30 minutes between 8 am and 8 pm, Walmart said.

“While we initially thought customers would use the service for emergency items, we knew they were using it for greater convenience, like a quick fix for a dinner. weeks, ”David Guggina, Walmart’s senior vice president of innovation and automation, said in the statement. “Case in point: The best -selling item at one of our hubs right now is the Hamburger Helper.”

There’s still a long way to go before drone deliveries become common – and there’s no guarantee they can. Drone service is strictly prohibited by regulations which often make it impractical as a commercial business. At this stage in the US, all drone deliveries were conducted as tests with strictly restricted safety protocols.

Waiting for the rules

The Federal Aviation Administration has not written rules that allow drone flights to be invisible to human ground operators. The agency is further developing the framework on how to create a new air traffic system for the devices. Other questions remain about possible community concerns, such as noise.

In a covert recognition of limitations, DroneUp will also use the hubs of Walmart stores to offer services to local businesses and government. For example, a builder could partner with DroneUp to monitor the progress of construction sites. Other applications range from insurance to real estate to emergency-response services, which could potentially offset retail-delivery costs and generate more flight data.

In Walmart’s expanded network, participating stores have certified drone operators who handle DroneUp flights. When an order is placed, it is filled at the store and then packed, loaded onto the drone and lowered into the customer’s yard using a cable.

“DroneUp is a reliable partner because we tested this solution,” Guggina said. “Their capabilities enable our business to scale at speed while maintaining a high caliber of safety and quality.”

Walmart bought a stake in DroneUp last year. The Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer has drone projects with Zipline International Inc., which uses fixed-wing aircraft, and Israeli startup Flytrex Inc.

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