Walmart Inc. announced Thursday that it has invested in DroneUp, a nationwide drone services provider it partnered with last year, but did not disclose the investment amount.
DroneUp of Virginia Beach, Virginia, is the third drone company the Bentonville retailer has partnered with over the past two years. In September, the companies announced a pilot program to deliver at-home COVID-19 self-collection kits.
“The trial demonstrated we could offer customers delivery in minutes versus hours,” John Furner, CEO and president of Walmart U.S., said in a Thursday blog post announcing the investment. “Now, after safely completing hundreds of drone deliveries from Walmart stores, we’re making an investment in DroneUp to continue our work toward developing a scalable last-mile delivery solution.”
He also said the retailer’s current infrastructure — 4,700 stores located within 10 miles of 90% of the U.S. population — makes it “uniquely positioned to execute drone deliveries, which is why our investment in DroneUp won’t just apply to the skies but also the ground.
“In the coming months, we’ll be beginning our first operation at a store in Bentonville, Arkansas.”
Walmart has also been working with Zipline International Inc. since September on a drone pilot program that would — at first — deliver health and wellness products to select customers in northwest Arkansas, starting later this year. Part of that project is the construction of a new drone launchpad in Pea Ridge.
Last month, Walmart and drone company Flytrex announced they would expand a delivery program in Fayetteville, North Carolina, that began two years ago.
“Conducting drone deliveries at scale is within reach,” Furner said Thursday. “DroneUp’s expertise, combined with our retail footprint and proven history of logistics innovation, puts us right where we want to be for that day. Because, when it comes to the future of drone delivery, we know the sky’s the limit.”