Walmart opens drone stations in Arkansas

  • November 30, 2021
  • Steve Rogerson

US supermarket giant Walmart is opening three drone stations in Arkansas to provide on-demand delivery in a partnership with Virginia-based DroneUp.

The retailer is opening three airport hubs for on-demand delivery operations, and the first has already taken flight at a Walmart market in Farmington, Arkansas.

The three locations, which will be located at Walmart stores in north-west Arkansas, will operate from 8am to 8pm, seven days per week, to deliver items to eligible customers by air in as little as 30 minutes.

“When we invested in DroneUp earlier this year, we envisioned a drone delivery operation that could be quickly executed and replicated across multiple stores,” said Tom Ward, senior vice president at Walmart. “Opening our first hub within months of our initial concept showcases DroneUp’s ability to safely execute drone delivery operations with speed. We’re already hearing great customer feedback at our first site in Farmington, Arkansas, and look forward to opening additional locations.”

DroneUp’s delivery operation is said to provide Walmart customers with a safe, convenient, fast and sustainable delivery option on thousands of items – even the most fragile – powered by a crew of operators. A drone delivery takes four steps:

  • Verify: Customer enters their address to verify eligibility.
  • Shop: Customer selects from thousands of items for delivery.
  • Secure: Operators pack the order and secure the box to the drone using a patented delivery release mechanism.
  • Deliver: The flight engineer manages a controlled and guided delivery, placing the order gently at the customer’s home.

Eligible customers in Farmington can already begin placing orders. The additional locations at Rogers and Bentonville, Arkansas, are planned to open in the coming months.

“Teaming up with Walmart to launch three delivery hubs marks a significant leap forward in the broader use of UAS to provide last-mile consumer delivery services and supply chain efficiency options,” said Tom Walker, CEO of DroneUp. “Walmart and DroneUp provide an unrivalled ability to pick, pack and deliver via drones directly from the store to consumers offering efficiencies no other retailer can match. We are proud of our team’s ability to deliver the technology helping Walmart launch a new era of commercial drone operations.”

Walmart is well-positioned for drone delivery as it already has infrastructure in place to serve the public with more than 4700 stores stocked with 120,000 of the most purchased items, located within 16km of over 90 per cent of the US population. Similarly, DroneUp’s airport hubs house convenient on-site operations where FAA certified flight engineers can conduct multiple and simultaneous deliveries.

Drones are valuable due to their flexibility, speed and low cost. Drones also require fewer fossil fuel-powered vehicles for short delivery trips. DroneUp has worked closely with the FAA to ensure the safe operation of drones and has more than 190 active waivers and authorisations with the FAA to support flights across the USA.

Headquartered in Virginia Beach, Virginia, DroneUp was founded in 2016 by Tom Walker.