Wing, the drone company owned by Google parent Alphabet, is piloting another baby-step drone delivery program starting next month in Christiansburg, VA in partnership with FedEx and Walgreens, the first time a retailer will offer this kind of service in the U.S.
As with other drone pilots, this one has extremely tight parameters: FedEx customers who opt in from designated neighborhoods in Christiansburg, population 22,000, and limited initially to drone delivery of kids’ snacks, over-the-counter medications, select packages from FedEx Express and sweets and stationery from local retailer Sugar Magnolia.
The drone pilot is one of 10 approved last year by the Federal Aviation Administration. The partners claim customers who sign up will receive their online orders within minutes. That immediacy, plus the reduction of vehicle emissions and road congestion, is the value proposition of drone delivery.
“Through our partnership with Wing, Walgreens will be the first U.S. retailer to offer an on-demand commercial drone delivery option in the U.S., allowing us to explore another omni-channel offering for the delivery of products and services our customers want and need – wherever, whenever and however they may want them,” said Vish Sankaran, chief innovation officer, Walgreens Boots Alliance, in a release.
Wing, launched as a company by Alphabet last year, also has drone delivery projects in Finland and Australia, according to The Verge.
Israeli drone systems company Flytrex is also taking part in an FAA-approved pilot program in Holly Springs, NC. Like Wing, it is also very limited, in this case to restaurant deliveries along a single route over a highway from a shopping mall to a landing zone at a recreation center. Flytrex also makes deliveries in Reykjavik, Iceland for local ecommerce company Aha.