In late August, Amazon obtained a Part 135 Air Carrier Certificate for its fleet of Prime Air drones. This certificate allows the company to use unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) “to carry the property of another for compensation beyond visual line of sight.” And now, Walmart is trying to play catch-up by signing a bunch of deals with existing drone companies.
Walmart partnered with end-to-end drone delivery company, Flytrex, to deliver “select grocery and household essential items” using automated drones. Using a “smart and easy control dashboard”, these drones are controlled over the cloud. The small pilot launched in Fayetteville, North Carolina in early September.
Tom Ward, Walmart’s senior vice president of customer products wrote, “Our latest initiative has us exploring how drones can deliver items in a way that’s convenient, safe, and – you guessed it – fast.” To catch up to ol’ Bezos, Walmart is going to need to be faster than fast. And to do that, they are using companies like Flytrex, which already have FAA approval.
But, Walmart is not relying on Flytrex alone. It has deals with two other companies, as well. Three weeks ago, Walmart expanded its drone delivery items to health and wellness products by partnering with Zipline. This startup has made its name delivering medical supplies across Africa. Although a bit behind, delivery test trials are set to start next year. Recently, Walmart has announced a partnership with Quest Diagnostics and DroneUp, a nationwide drone services provider. With them, Walmart has started launching trial deliveries of at-home COVID-19 self-collection kits at its North Las Vegas store.
COVID-19 tests can be delivered to customers within a one-mile radius. When your test is on the way, DroneUp will text customers letting them know that their Quest Diagnostics test is coming. People can expect to see their package on their driveways, front yard, or backyard. In a LinkedIn post, John Furner, Walmart’s President and CEO, wrote that they have already made 57 total flights and delivered 24 at-home COVID-19 self-collection kits to customers.
So, Amazon got there first, but Walmart is making sure it’s not far behind. The company has made a big leap in such a short time. However, they are relying on third-parties to get their air delivery system up and running. With more than one back-seat driver in the car, who knows if Walmart has made the right move by not building its drones.