Zipline is partnering with Walmart for a new drone delivery operation announced in the US. The program is for on-demand delivery of health and wellness products and will begin early next year near Walmart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas. Zipline’s launch and release system allows on-demand delivery in less than an hour, and can operate within a 50-mile radius, operating from a Walmart store.
Earlier this year Zipline announced that it was partnering with a hospital system in North Carolina to make contactless delivery of medical supplies and personal protective equipment. And for the first time this year when the zipline drone was not used for medical supplies. In 2016, it launched the first national drone delivery system in the world to deliver blood to patients in remote areas of Rwanda.
The company says that it distributes more than 200,000 important medical products to healthcare facilities in many countries. The partnership with Walmart is the first step towards potential national level operations across the US.
The pilot program along the zipline is the latest in Walmart’s steps toward widespread drone use. Back in 2015 the retail giant conducted drone delivery testing, and in 2016 used drones to test warehouse inventories.
And last week, Walmart announced a small pilot program in North Carolina to deliver “select groceries and household items” using automatic drones from startup Flytrex. It did not provide details about how many drones are involved in that pilot, but acknowledged that it would be some time before drone delivery became more widespread.
It will be interesting to see which of the two retail giants on drone delivery is hyperfocus – Walmart and Amazon – which enters the fastest. In August, Amazon received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to operate as a drone airline in the US, which could mean the start of large commercial operations for retail BHAM.