Just last week, Walmart made headlines by launching its first commercial US drone delivery service within a 50-mile radius of Pea Ridge, Arkansas — dropping parachute-laden packages from an autonomous Zipline plane to a “hand-selected group of recipients.” Now, it’s already expanding those drone deliveries in another, small way: customers who live in Farmington, Arkansas, can now order small items like cans of tuna, baby supplies, and paper plates starting today. That’s thanks to a partnership with DroneUp, which will also provide drone delivery stations in Rogers, AR and Bentonville, AR “in the coming months.”
While it’s kind of exciting for drone delivery watchers, you should know that it’s also very much baby steps. DroneUp’s traditional quadcopters only deliver within a one-mile radius of a Walmart store — and all three of these stores are within the same region that Zipline already announced it would serve. They do, however, lower their packages down on cables rather than dropping them from the sky.
Walmart did seem to have quite the selection of essentials to offer when we typed in a local address. We spotted a 26-count pack of diapers, a box of buttermilk pancake mix, paper plates, crayons, trash bags, vitamins, scotch tape, and page after page of basic food items and baby items (including baby food). Every item has a weight, and the website will only let you check out with 4 pounds of goods or less for a $10 delivery fee.
The heaviest thing we saw was a 3.87-pound box of Similac baby formula, and the priciest was a $29.88 bottle of extra virgin olive oil. 1.5 pounds worth of canned tuna, a 2.4-pound bottle of Pedialyte and a 3.58-pound box of mixed fruit cups are also within reach if you live in the (tiny) region that Walmart and DroneUp now serve. DroneUp says customers can get orders as quickly as 30 minutes (but isn’t promising a typical delivery time) and says each hub can launch multiple flights per hour.
(Weirdly, you can’t sort Walmart’s items by weight to make selections easier, and the shopping cart doesn’t seem to be smart enough to restrict you by volume: I added 27 lightweight cups of ramen to my cart without triggering a flag at all, and I’m pretty sure they won’t all fit in that drone.)
Walmart and DroneUp previously trialed COVID-19 test drone deliveries in a one-mile radius of stores in North Las Vegas and Cheektowaga, New York, and Walmart made an undisclosed investment in DroneUp this summer. DroneUp still isn’t saying what Walmart invested or how much.
Here’s a video from DroneUp about what the deliveries might look like: