Bentonville is “ground zero” for Walmart’s drone operations

Bentonville is “ground zero” for Walmart’s drone operations

By BCN Staff Writer Mecca Hinnant – June 30, 2021 — Walmart is exploring alternative ways to offer their customers a low-cost, last-mile autonomous delivery options. John Furner, CEO and president of Walmart’s U.S. business, announced the company’s investment in DroneUp on June 17. The next step in the business partnership that began just last year with the nationwide drone provider.

Delivery and pick-up service has become a staple in the retail industry in recent years. Now Walmart is “focused on growing our last mile ecosystem in a way that’s beneficial for everyone,” Furner said. This is the second investment related to delivery services the multinational retail corporation has announced this year. Coming just months after the announcement of their investment in Cruise, the San Francisco-based company that builds all-electric, self-driving cars.

Furner said “conducting drone deliveries at scale was within reach” for Walmart. The biggest difference in autonomous delivery services often comes in the form of time saved, “the trial demonstrated we could offer customers delivery in minutes versus hours,” he said. 

Camille Dunn. director of corporate communications at Bentonville-based retail giant, said has a lot of different things going on in this space. “We know these are viable options for delivery in the future and we certainly want to be a first mover and learn more about how it integrates with our operations and how it will interact with our customers,” she said.

Moving forward with DroneUp, Dunn said the company was in the process of building their first drone launch pad at a store in Bentonville, AR.

The retail giant has been working with several drone companies in recent years including FlyTrex, a drone provider in North Carolina they’ve been in partnership with for the past year and a half. “They deliver select items from our supercenters to our customers’ homes and we have two stores participating in that trial right now,” said Dunn. 

The company’s partnerships also include the nationwide drone provider Zipline, headquartered in San Francisco. The company has made a name for itself, delivering shipments fast on the world’s largest autonomous network.

Dunn said the company was in the process of building that infrastructure with the company in a store in PeaRidge.“What it is a 6-wing drone that looks like an airplane, and it drops the merchandise from a parachute onto customers’ lawn. So we’re excited for that to launch later this year,” she said

Retail competitors like Amazon and delivery services like UPS have also begun testing drone delivery services in the past year as well, alluding that the service will be available to consumers sooner than later. 

Walmart customer and mother of two, Tarrah Brewer said she has never taken advantage of any delivery services in the past but thinks services like these are beneficial to the handicapped community. 

The date for drone operations to begin in Bentonville is to be announced soon but Dunn was adamant the launch would happen this year. 

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