US retail multinational Walmart has launched a pilot program this week that will see its first deliveries made by drones in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
According to the retailer, it will begin delivering “select grocery and household essential items” by drone in the local area using automated drones, operated by Israeli start-up company Flytrex.
Flytex received its approval from the FAA to test small food deliveries in North Carolina in 2019, provided its drones only fly in the daytime along predetermined routes, and over unpopulated areas.
Flytex’s drones can fly at speeds up to 50km/h, travel a total distance of 10 kilometres, and carry up to three kilograms of weight.
The drone also has the capability to lower the package to the ground, while the device itself stays up to 80 feet in the air.
There are few specific details on the Walmart pilot program, including how many drones will be used, or which customers will be offered the service.
Walmart senior vice president Tom Ward said, “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 has had its eyes set on drones as a means of delivery for a number of years, beginning its first drone testing in 2015, as well as experimenting with the use of drones to check inventory within its warehouses in 2016.
However, this will be the first public testing of delivery drones by Walmart.
The news comes just weeks after retail giant Amazon received official FAA approval to operate its own delivery drones within the US.
Walmart has been able to side-step the certification process by outsourcing its delivery drones from Flytrex, which has already been certified by the FAA under its UAS Integration Pilot Program.