Last year, my first-ever contribution to IoT Evolution was a piece about Walmart and DroneUp; i.e. how their partnership had made drone deliveries possible for select markets.
Since then, the results have been sky-high. Having successfully completed this plan for drone-centric expansion, Walmart now operates 36 drone delivery hubs across seven states. (Previously Arizona, Texas and Florida, and now Arkansas, North Carolina, Utah and Virginia.)
Here are the long-story-short stats from 2022:
- More than 6,000 drone deliveries were completed.
- Customers waited 30 minutes or less for a drone to arrive after ordering.
- Approximately 85% of items in neighborhood markets consistently met the weight (10 lbs.) and volume requirements to continue operations.
- 4,700 stores enabling this service were located within 90% of the U.S. population, uniquely positioning Walmart and DroneUp to offer from-the-air deliveries at scale.
That last statistic is particularly relevant. With its colossal chain of hypermarkets alone, Walmart has gained an advantage over mega-corporations like Amazon via its baked-in regional fluency. That’s why the retailer’s partnership with DroneUp is so crucial; as Walmart stocks its physical stores, DroneUp positions their hubs close by for direct access to thousands of products designed for established demographics. This is an eminently multifaceted investment, and it shows how real an Amazon competitor Walmart has become.
In terms of the actual Point-A-to-Point-B process for consumers, receiving packages is designed to be as hassle-free as possible. After one’s location is inputted, a DroneUp Hub Flight engineer will be able to verify the optimum flight path. Then, they assess the pending delivery site for the safest drop-off location for both the consumer and the drone itself. (DroneUp even recommends taking a moment and generally clearing the delivery area of any people, pets, loose debris or other obstructions. If opted-in for, text message updates can be sent to help safely narrow the delivery window, too.) Upon arrival, the drone will lower from a height of 80 feet before gently delivering the package via its smart sensors and cables.
“I’m incredibly proud of our team for creating the largest drone delivery footprint of any U.S. retailer and providing customers with an incredibly fast – and innovative – option for delivery,” said Vik Gopalakrishnan, Vice President of Innovation & Automation at Walmart U.S., “We’re encouraged by the positive response from customers and look forward to making even more progress in 2023.”
All in all, we’ve come a long way in the vein of last-mile delivery logistics since Domino’s delivered the first pizza by drone back in 2016. In newly-minted 2023, the prospect of this as a now-dependable option has risen steeply (especially since the world-changing events of the COVID-19 pandemic), and the demand for store-to-door drone deliveries is still very much surging. According to recent analyses from sources like ReportLinker, at least 60% of consumers indicate they are mostly in favor of this uptick in drone activities.
And again, while companies like Amazon have indeed begun their drone deliveries, as well (specifically in Lockeford, California and College Station, Texas using an in-house Amazon Prime Air fleet of drones), this multi-contender IoT tug of war has likely only just taken off. Walmart and DroneUp certainly seem to understand this, and we’re quite interested in seeing how far they fly.
Edited by Alex Passett