Pea Ridge, Arkansas, will be home to the first commercial drone home delivery service in the United States, launched by Zipline. Although customers will be able to choose from thousands of products, they will be limited mainly to health and wellness products such as over-the-counter allergy medicines, bandages and ibuprofen tablets. The service will only be available within a 50-mile radius.
The companies continue to believe that drones can be used commercially. However, the slow uptake (Walmart first tested air delivery in 2015) and lack of large-scale projects suggest that there are still many open questions.
Zipline has so far been mostly proven in the healthcare sector: It delivers medical supplies in North Carolina, blood products in Rwanda and coronavirus vaccines in Ghana. It is clear that in these cases the cost of the operation and the technology are more in line, as the vaccines and blood samples are small and valuable, and rapid delivery is a major advantage in such cases. Walmart is the drone company’s first commercial partner, but it is uncertain whether the new service will make it worthwhile for customers to order diapers or over-the-counter medicines in this way.
For the retail giant, unmanned aerial vehicles could help fill gaps in its delivery network – for example in hard-to-reach rural locations. Since this type of delivery does not require roads or highways, unmanned aircraft drop the package using a mini parachute, eliminating the need to designate landing zones in advance. However, there are still a number of obstacles, including regulatory issues. However, Zipline was granted a waiver from certain restrictions by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) earlier this year.
The Arkansas service can be tried out through the drone company’s app. It’s where you can place orders and make payments. According to the information, access will first be granted to a narrow address book, and then, pending FAA approval, work will be done to expand the service.