Shoppers who live within a 50-mile radius of Walmart's headquarters in Arkansas can now get items dropped off by drone. The retail giant is teaming up with the drone delivery company Zipline to parachute packages of goods to shoppers.
"It's unbelievably exciting, we've been working towards this day for many many years," said Liam O'Connor, Zipline's COO.
"We have done over 220,000 commercial deliveries in overseas markets," said O'Connor. "For us the promise of ultrafast delivery is really to give access to all kinds of communities to all kinds of products."
Once a customer places an order, items are packaged inside a specially designed box with a parachute. The first step in the process is scanning the package, then installing the parachute and loading the package into the payload bay. Next, the drone has a battery installed before it is inspected and finally launched for delivery.
The drones are currently able to drop payloads within a 50-mile radius of Pea Ridge, Arkansas, but Walmart and Zipline are hoping to expand nationwide.
"If our customers enjoy the service we'll scale it so in future holidays this is probably going to play a really great part in getting things in a hurry," said Tom Ward, who runs Walmart's Last Mile delivery operation.
"Customers expect us to save them money, they need us to save them time and when it comes to saving time what better way to do it than via a drone," Ward said.
Zipline is part of a growing list of companies looking to make commercial drone delivery more accessible.
The service is currently free as both Walmart and Zipline gather data and feedback to see if this is something people really want.
Correction: This piece has been updated to correct Liam O'Connor's title at Zipline.
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