Walmart’s drone delivery program is expanding nicely. According to the company, shoppers in seven US states – Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina, Texas, Utah and Virginia – now have the option. The option is available between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. for $4. For this money, a customer-ordered package weighing up to 10 pounds (4.5 kg) will arrive at the address within a half hour. This delivery limit, by the way, covers the vast majority of items typically purchased for small purchases.
The company is currently working with three different partners to expand its coverage. DroneUp, Flytrex and Zipline offer very different solutions, but generally nothing ends up in the shopper’s back garden. Instead, they land from a higher altitude, either lowered by a winch or using a mini parachute and gravity to land the package, which is of course properly wrapped.
Although the 6,000-plus drone deliveries made last year may be considered minuscule compared to the huge volume of sales Walmart handles, the company still has a significant advantage over its main local rival, Amazon. The latter has been flirting with the use of drones for about a decade, but has only recently made significant steps towards actual implementation.
So far, test deliveries are only taking place in College Station, Texas, and Lockeford, California, but Amazon is working to expand the range as soon as possible.
Less carbon emissions
The use of drones has been hampered in recent years not only by the immaturity of the technology, but also by the rigidity of the regulatory environment and even consumer attitudes. In addition to the potential dangers posed by these devices, some members of the public do not appreciate having their peace of mind disturbed by drones buzzing overhead on a regular basis.
However, there are clear benefits for the planet if this innovative logistics solution were to become widespread. For example, a study published last year by Carnegie Mellon researchers found that delivery drones emit 84 percent less greenhouse gases than diesel trucks and about a third less than electric vans that do the same job. Accenture calculates that by 2021, drone deliveries could potentially reduce ecosystem-disrupting carbon emissions by 49 kilotonnes per year.