New partnerships give Amazon, Walmart drone efforts more runway

Dan Ochwat
Executive Editor
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Walmart recently struck new partnerships to advance its drone capabilities. The retailer is working with the drone company Flytrex on a test in Fayetteville, N.C., as well as Zipline, a drone company that works in the healthcare space.

Not to be outdone, Amazon also announced that its Amazon’s Prime Air has received approval from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to use drones for package-delivery service, a must-have certification if Amazon wanted to feasibly launch a drone delivery service. Google’s Wing earned certification last year and they’re partnering with Walgreens to test drone delivery.

Amazon Prime Air drone

Zipline, Walmart’s other new partner, first hit the scene in 2016 delivering medical supplies to needed areas in Rwanda and has now completed more than 200,000 medical products to thousands of health facilities serving more than 20 million people across multiple countries. 

Walmart’s partnership would lean on Zipline to deliver health and wellness and medical products. Similarly, CVS has been working with the company Matternet to deliver prescriptions by drone. 

Walmart’s test deliveries will take place near Walmart's headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, but the service can extend to a 50-mile radius from the Walmart store there.

The drone service is designed to deliver packages in under an hour and also eliminates carbon emissions, as the drones are battery powered. 

Flytrex, based in Tel Aviv, Israel, has designed drones that are controlled over the cloud using a dashboard that enables Walmart to gain insight into the customer and associate experience, from picking and packing to takeoff and delivery.

"We know that it will be some time before we see millions of packages delivered via drone,” said Tom Ward, senior vice president, customer product, for Walmart. “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. At the end of the day, it’s learnings from pilots such as this that will help shape the potential of drone delivery on a larger scale and, true to the vision of our founder, take Walmart beyond where we’ve been."