Walmart’s drone delivery program that started as an effort to get at-home COVID-19 tests to people safely during the pandemic expanded across Florida and will be available in five other states by the end of the year, the company said recently.
The program allows customers to order items from any participating stores to be delivered by drone delivery service DroneUp in as little as 30 minutes. This service will now be accessible in certain cities across Florida, and will then extend to Arkansas, Arizona, Texas, Utah and Virginia.
DroneUp experienced mainstream popularity during the pandemic, when it partnered with Walmart and Quest Diagnostics in September 2020 to pilot a program that delivered at-home COVID-19 tests to residents in North Las Vegas.
That pilot program, which was limited at the time to residents living within one mile of the North Las Vegas Walmart, sought to “determine what roles drones can play in pandemic response, healthcare delivery and retail,” a DroneUp press release noted at the time.
The success of the program over the ensuing years prompted this expansion effort.
“Drone delivery makes it possible for our customers to shop those last-minute or forgotten items with ease, in a package that’s frankly really cool,” Vik Gopalakrishnan, VP of innovation and automation at Walmart, said in a statement. “It may seem like a futuristic option, but it’s giving our customers what they’ve always wanted, and that’s time back to focus on what is most important to them.”
As the shift from brick-and-mortar healthcare to at-home healthcare proliferated during the pandemic, companies rolled out medication delivery apps and services to meet changing consumer expectations.
Worldwide, drone delivery technology has increasingly been used to deliver medication and vaccines to remote areas, suggesting it may become increasingly used in the healthcare space.
In the U.S., drone logistics company Volansi launched a program that delivered temperature-controlled vaccines in North Carolina, in collaboration with Merck. This technology has also been used to reach remote communities in Malawi, Scotland and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, among others.
In May, Walmart stated that it would expand its delivery network to 34 additional sites in six states, encompassing four million households. The retail giant said it has found customers use the service for more than COVID-19 care needs, such as for “sheer convenience, like a quick fix for a weeknight meal.”Its most popular order, the company said, just happens to be Hamburger Helper.