Walmart's New Delivery Service Could Be A Total Game-Changer

If you live in Fayetteville, North Carolina and you happen to look up at the sky, you might catch a glimpse of Walmart's latest innovation — a drone delivery service which, earlier this week, began flying the delivery skies to drop off selected grocery and household items. 

Each of the drones is capable of flying 32 miles per hour, go as far as 6.2 miles round trip, and carry up to 6.6 pounds worth of items. The drones, which are operated by Israeli startup Flytrex, don't land and deliver; instead, these messengers are expected to gently lower packages from up to 80 feet in the air (via The Verge). Walmart itself says the drones are controlled over the cloud, using a smart and easy-to-use dashboard, but has offered few other details about the experiment.

Bloomberg reports that Walmart first mentioned it was testing drones during an investor meeting in October 2017, and that it was using drones to help manage inventory for some Sam's Club locations in February this year. Walmart has also filed patents for several methods that would ensure that drones could make deliveries safely into its customers' backyards; one plan involves the use of a floating warehouse.

Walmart has been considering drones since 2017

Where Walmart goes, you can bet that Amazon won't be far behind — and vice versa. Last month, Walmart's arch (business) rival was named one of a few companies certified by the U.S. government to operate as a drone airline. This means Amazon can begin undertaking commercial deliveries under a trial, using the devices that it introduced for just this purpose last year. Amazon says the scheme will see its Prime Air drones deliver packages that weigh up to five pounds in 30 minutes or less. The Verge says Walmart has bypassed the need for certification by working with Flytrex, which is already a part of the FAA's Integration Pilot Program.

In a blog post, Walmart's Senior Vice President for Customer Product Tom Ward admitted that the day packages would be delivered by drone for everyone wasn't exactly around the corner. "We know that it will be some time before we see millions of packages delivered via drone," he wrote. "That still feels like a bit of 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."