Multinational retail giant Walmart and DroneUp have announced an expansion of their delivery operation to 34 sites by the end of the year, providing the potential to reach 4 million US households.

The larger network will touch six states – Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Texas, Utah and Virginia – providing Walmart with the ability to deliver over 1 million packages by drone in a year.

Between 8am and 8pm, customers will be able to order from tens of thousands of eligible items for delivery by air in as little as 30 minutes. For a delivery fee of $3.99, customers can order items weighing up to 10lbs.

Positive response from customers

Walmart’s David Guggina, Senior Vice President of Innovation and Automation, said: “After completing hundreds of deliveries within a matter of months across our existing DroneUp hubs, we’ve seen firsthand how drones can offer customers a practical solution for getting certain items, fast. More importantly, we’ve seen a positive response from our customers that have used the service.

“In fact, while we initially thought customers would use the service for emergency items, we’re finding they use it for its sheer convenience, like a quick fix for a weeknight meal.”

Certified pilots operating within FAA guidelines

Participating stores will house a DroneUp delivery hub including a team of certified pilots, operating within FAA guidelines, that safely 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 garden using a cable that gently lowers the package.

Walmart packages are not the only thing the drones will deliver. Guggina explained: “A core value at Walmart is to give back to the communities in which we operate, which is why as we scale our drone infrastructure, we’ll continue to influence the expansion of drone technology and enable other businesses to explore its benefits, too.

Insurance, emergency response and real estate

“This means DroneUp will offer local businesses and municipalities aerial drone solutions in areas like insurance, emergency response and real estate. For example, a local construction agency can work with DroneUp to monitor on-site job progress through aerial drone photography.

“Not only will the added revenue help offset the cost of delivery, but it also serves the entire drone industry by gathering more flight data as we work together to expand drone operations in a safe and regulated way.”

Subscribe to the FINN weekly newsletter