Walmart this week launched a second pilot drone delivery program, this time in Fayetteville, NC, using a control system from Israeli firm Flytrex, zipping grocery and household items to nearby customers.
This is in addition to a program drone program Walmart launched in April in Grand Forks, ND, again with Flytrex.
While the announcement from Walmart was thin on details, it said the drones will be controlled over the cloud using a smart dashboard.
“(The drones) will help us gain valuable insight into the customer and associate experience, from picking and packing to takeoff and delivery,” said Tom Ward, Senior Vice President of Customer Products at Walmart. “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.”
Walmart is all-in on technology and innovation, including pilots of autonomous vehicles with Gatik, Ford and Nuro and a June pilot of cashier-less checkout near its Bentonville, AR headquarters, as it tries to keep pace with Amazon’s relentless advances. This past week Amazon announced the opening of a second Go store in Redmond, WA, ironically in a former Sears Auto center.
Last week, Amazon received FAA approval for delivery drone operation beyond a pilot’s visual line of sight, a huge hurdle that has hung up greater expansion of the service. Amazon said it is focusing on servicing rural areas.
In April, Flytrex began making drone deliveries from a Walmart in Grand Forks, ND to a dozen nearby homes.
Flytrex, which has been conducting regular drone deliveries in Reykjavik, Iceland for the past three years, the first in the world, has been taking part in an FAA-approved drone test program in North Carolina since 2018.