KEY POINTS

  • Walmart has recently launched a small pilot program where drones deliver products to customers
  • The automated drones will be operated by Israeli startup Flytrex
  • The drones will deliver “select groceries and household essential items” to customers

Walmart customers might just see drones delivering their orders the next time they buy something from the eCommerce giant.

A “small pilot program” was recently launched by Walmart in Fayetteville, North Carolina. The automated drones, which are operated by Flytrex, will deliver “select groceries and household essential items” to customers, said The Verge.

Flytrex’s drones first took to the air as a delivery alternative in 2015 when they partnered with AHA, Iceland’s biggest eCommerce that dramatically shortened delivery time from 30 minutes to less than 5. The initiative was then launched in September 2017 and is now delivering food and small electronics.

walmart The outside of a Walmart location is pictured here. Photo: AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM

The Israeli startup was able to get approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as they tested food deliveries in North Carolina last year.

Walmart’s new delivery feature will prove to be essential as the United States continues its fight against COVID-19. Some consumers are staying indoors to avoid getting sick and, at the same time, following government guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus. Walmart, on the other hand, will take the opportunity to “beef up its delivery business” to deliver essential goods to customers, The Economic Times reported.

“We know that it will be some time before we see millions of packages delivered via drone,” Walmart Senior Vice President for Customer Product Tom Ward said in a post. “That still feels like science fiction, but we’re at a point where we’re learning more and more about the technology that is available and how we can use it to make our customers’ lives easier.”

Ward added that the on-demand service will utilize Flytrex’s automated drones. These are controlled over the cloud using a smart and easy control dashboard that will give Walmart “valuable insight” on what their customers think about the innovation.

Walmart first experimented with drones back in 2015 when it applied to use it as couriers for home delivery, curbside pickup and inventory purposes. A year later, the company demonstrated how drones would be valuable in helping them with their inventory checklist.

Walmart’s eagle-eye efforts came as a direct answer to rival Amazon who received approval from the FAA to operate as a drone airline in the U.S. last month.