Walmart, Partners to Expand Drone Delivery in Dallas Fort Worth

Retail giant Walmart collaborates with Wing, Zipline, and DroneUp to enhance drone delivery services across the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex.

By DRONELIFE Features Editor Jim Magill

Retail giant Walmart, along with its drone delivery partners, is continuing to expand its airborne delivery options in the greater Dallas/Fort Worth area, in anticipation of rolling out drone delivery service at its stores nationwide.

Recently Wing announced to media in the DFW market that, in cooperation with Walmart, it would begin offering drone delivery services in the cities of Fort Worth and Arlington. With the addition of these two new sites, Wing and Walmart will now offer drone delivery to homes in more than a dozen localities across the DFW metroplex.

Currently, Wing – a subsidiary of Google’s parent company, Alphabet – offers delivery by drone in the North Texas cities of North Richland Hills, Lewisville and Frisco.

Walmart spokeswoman Lindsey Coulter said the recent expansion is part of the retail company’s plans, announced last January, to offer drone delivery to 75% of the population of the D/FW area by the end of 2024. The company appears to be using the D/FW metroplex as a test market to determine the feasibility of expanding drone delivery onto the national stage.

“Right now, we’re focused on saturating a single market, D/FW, with drone delivery with the goal of understanding what drone delivery operations could look like at scale,” she said. Zipline, another Walmart drone delivery partner in the metroplex, is expected to announce a similar expansion of its D/FW operations in the coming months.

“The Wing hubs and forthcoming Zipline locations, as part of the D/FW expansion, are in addition to the 11 hubs currently operated by DroneUp in the D/FW area,” Coulter said.

Both Wing and Zipline have been certified by the FAA to conduct drone operations beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS).

To conduct its deliveries, Wing employs a fixed-wing, multi-rotor 4.3-foot aircraft with a 4.9-foot wing span that is able to fly horizontally like a plane and hover like a helicopter. The all-electric vehicle has zero emissions and is able to fly to its destination in minutes. Once it reaches its delivery destination, the aircraft hovers above its target and lower its payload of delivery items by tether.

The Zipline system employs two vehicles, the primary aircraft, known as the Zip, and the smaller Droid, which fits in the belly of the Zip and which carries the payload of delivery items. The Zip is able to fly autonomously to service customers within a 10-mile radius of its home base store.

Once it reaches its destination, the Zip will then hover hundreds of feet up above the delivery location and will lower the Droid to the drop zone on a tether. The Droid has its own quiet navigation system which allows it to land on the specific spot that’s been identified by the customer. Once the delivery is complete the Droid is hoisted back up to the primary aircraft, which then returns to the dock.

Walmart first among U.S. retailers in drone delivery

Walmart claims that it has the largest drone delivery footprint of any U.S. retail company. In the past several months, the company has taken several steps to augment its drone delivery options. For example, in early June, Walmart said it was introducing drone deliveries into its app.

In May, the company announced plans to expand its UAV deliveries to 4 million U.S. households in partnership with DroneUp.

“We’ll be expanding our DroneUp delivery network to 34 sites by the end the year, providing the potential to reach 4 million U.S. households across six states – Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Texas, Utah and Virginia. This provides us the ability to deliver over 1 million packages by drone in a year,” Walmart said in a press release.

“Between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., customers will be able to order from tens of thousands of eligible items, such as Tylenol, diapers and hot dog buns, for delivery by air in as little as 30 minutes.”

Stores participating in the DroneUp delivery service, will house a hub that will include a team of FAA- certified pilots to manage flight operations for deliveries. “Once a customer places an order, the item is fulfilled from the store, packaged, loaded into the drone and delivered right to their yard using a cable that gently lowers the package,” Walmart said.

In addition to providing delivery services for Walmart, DroneUp will use its hubs to offer additional drone services — such as insurance inspections, emergency response and real estate services — to local businesses and municipalities in nearby communities.

Like Wing and Zipline, DroneUp is FAA-certified to conduct BVLOS drone operations.

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Jim Magill is a Houston-based writer with almost a quarter-century of experience covering technical and economic developments in the oil and gas industry. After retiring in December 2019 as a senior editor with S&P Global Platts, Jim began writing about emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, robots and drones, and the ways in which they’re contributing to our society. In addition to DroneLife, Jim is a contributor to Forbes.com and his work has appeared in the Houston Chronicle, U.S. News & World Report, and Unmanned Systems, a publication of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.

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