There is no shortage of drone delivery startups vying to take package delivery into a new era, but few have the track record of US-based Zipline. The company has announced a new partnership with Walmart to conduct pilot trials where its drones will fulfil health and wellness orders in one hour, with hopes of expanding to general merchandise if the first runs are successful.
Zipline made its start in Rwanda towards the end of 2016, delivering blood from distribution hubs to transfusion facilities in remote regions, using its fixed-wing aircraft to overcome troublesome terrain. It has since expanded to deliver other medical supplies and begun operations in Tanzania and Ghana, recently celebrating the completion of its 200,000th delivery.
This makes Zipline’s service the world’s largest drone delivery network, and now Walmart hopes to tap into its expertise to streamline its business operations in the US. Announced today, the trials will operate out of Walmart’s headquarters in Arkansas, with Zipline’s drones to service customers in a 50-mile (80-km) radius.
The drones will be loaded up with health and wellness products and use Zipline’s parachute deployment system to bring them safely to ground within one hour of being ordered, according to Walmart.
For its part, Walmart has been exploring the potential of drone delivery since 2015, and last year kicked off a similar trial with startup Flytrex. It has also explored some other interesting delivery methods, including automated delivery pods and services that restock fridges when customers aren’t home.
The trials with Zipline will kick off in early 2021.
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