Walmart has launched a pilot program with Flytrex using drones to deliver groceries and household essentials in Fayetteville, N.C., according to a blog posted Wednesday (Sept. 9) by Tom Ward, a senior executive who oversees customer product at Walmart.
“From being an early pioneer of universal bar codes and electronic scanning cash registers to our work on autonomous vehicle delivery, we’re working to understand how these technologies can impact the future of our business and help us better serve our customers,” Ward said. “Our latest initiative has us exploring how drones can deliver items in a way that’s convenient, safe, and – you guessed it – fast. We’re taking the next step in our exploration of on-demand delivery by announcing a new pilot with Flytrex, an end-to-end drone delivery company.”
Ward said the drone delivery service will focus on select grocery and household essential items picked from Walmart stores. The Flytrex drones are controlled over the cloud using a smart and easy control dashboard, which will help Walmart gain insight into the customer and associate experience, from picking and packing to takeoff and delivery.
Flytrex has been working to deliver grocery products from Walmart in North Dakota prior to the pilot in North Carolina, according to the startup’s website. The drone can carry about 6.6 pounds.
“We know that it will be some time before we see millions of packages delivered via drone. 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,” Ward said.
Walmart has trailed competitor Amazon with the use of drones for delivery, despite its work in the space. Walmart has filed for 97 drone patents since 2018. Unlike other companies, many of the patents focus on how to get parcels delivered into a building. Patented ideas include a slide tunnel that the packages could drop into. The slide would receive a signal from the drone that the delivery has been made. A trap door would then open to allow the package to be transported inside the building.
Amazon received permission from the Federal Aviation Authority to test drone delivery services with drones it created and rolled out in June 2019. Amazon said it continues to test self-piloting drones and has not said when it will put the devices to work delivering goods to shoppers on a large scale.
Flytrex said its trial with Walmart is also an important step in using drones for the delivery of consumer goods with the ability to scale.
“Our fastened delivery box guarantees your order is delivered just the way it was packed. Using our wire release mechanism, orders are gently lowered from eighty feet. This ensures a quiet and secure delivery. Cruising at 32 mph without traffic or other impediments, we reach your backyard in a fraction of conventional delivery time,” Flytrex noted on its website.
Flytrex said it is part of the FDA UAS Integration Pilot Program and has partnered with the North Carolina Department of Transportation to standardize backyard drone delivery. The company also has spent two years working with the Icelandic Transportation Authority to advance the use of commercial drone deliveries in Reykjavik.