Walmart (NYSE:WMT) announced this morning it is partnering with Zipline to test delivery of health and wellness products via drone just days after announcing it would test drone-delivery of general merchandise with Flytrex.
Calling it "a first-of-its-kind drone delivery operation in the U.S.," the retail giant says Zipline will trial its drone technology near Walmart's corporate headquarters in northwest Arkansas. The Flytrex pilot program is being tested in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
Taking to the skies
The deep dive into drone delivery follows Amazon's announcement several weeks ago that it had received Federal Aviation Administration approval to operate a fleet of drones for Prime Air delivery service.
Walmart says Zipline, which began service delivering medical supplies in war-torn Rwanda, has delivered over 200,000 medical products to healthcare facilities in numerous countries, and partnering with the retailer will enable the drone company to scale up its U.S. operations nationally.
The test will begin early next year and if successful will expand to more areas. Walmart will also be looking to expand Zipline's capabilities to deliver general merchandise.
Zipline's drones are catapulted into the air with a slingshot that will operate out of a Walmart store and service a 50-mile radius, which the retailer notes is about the size of the state of Connecticut. Most drone deliveries are measured in hundreds of feet to a mile or so. Packages are then parachuted to the ground for contactless delivery.
Zipline began operations in Charlotte, North Carolina, earlier this year after partnering with hospital operator Novant Health to deliver PPE and medical supplies to frontline healthcare workers after receiving an emergency waiver from the FAA.