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As for the upcoming launch of Walmart+, which is slated for September 15, the retail giant will offer customers free delivery for over 160,000 items for a fee of $98 per year. The service will also include discounts of gasoline and will potentially add more perks over time. Walmart is also competing against Amazon's Go technology through "Scan & Go" -- a barcode scanner in the Walmart app which will allow for a touchless checkout and payment experience. Walmart did not give a time table for how long the test will last or when it would be expanded adding “we know that it will be some time before we see millions of packages delivered via drone;” it also is working with Gatik, Ford, and Nuro on potential autonomous vehicle use.
Not the first time by Walmart!
To be clear, this is not Walmart's first foray into the world of drones -- the company has been chasing Amazon in this space since 2015 when it filed an application with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to test drones for order fulfillment and curbside pickup at its stores. Walmart has also tested the use of drones to move inventory from trailers to its warehouses and to fine-tune its distribution system. Walmart's idea was to use drones to capture product information on warehouse shelves and then use that information to determine if items were incorrectly stocked or running low.
“Today, we’re taking the next step in our exploration of on-demand delivery by announcing a new pilot with Flytrex, an end-to-end drone delivery company,” Tom Ward, Walmart’s senior vice president of customer product said in a statement on the company’s website.
Each of the drones can fly at speeds of 32 mph, travel distances of 6.2 miles in a round trip, and carry up to 6.6 pounds (that’s rough “6-8 hamburgers,” according to converted units offered on Flytrex’s own website). Drone deliveries look especially attractive during a pandemic when many customers and businesses are keen to avoid in-person interactions.
What about Amazon services?
Amazon’s drone will be part of Amazon Prime Air and are designed to make “safe, efficient, and sustainable deliveries to our customers in 30 minutes or less from order,” the company said, adding “we have a dedicated team of safety, aerospace, science, robotics, software, hardware, testing, and manufacturing experts working to ensure our system meets the rigors required for an aerospace product.”
The coronavirus pandemic — with its lockdown orders and social distancing mandates — has stepped up consumer demand for at-home delivery in a way that some experts see as a permanent change for some households. How to get the goods to consumers quickly, safely, and in an eco-friendly manner is a key part of the current exploration of drones and autonomous vehicles. Walmart’s ubiquitous store network gives it an advantage in that race. When it comes to delivery, however, Amazon has been steadily making progress over Walmart. In addition to assembling its own fleet of cargo planes, Amazon has put together a network of ocean freighters, trucks, and local delivery vehicles, all while exploring new shipping options like robots and autonomous drones.