Walmart bringing drone delivery to Northwest Arkansas in pilot program

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BENTONVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Walmart is teaming up with Zipline to launch a first-of-its-kind drone delivery operation in the United States, with trial deliveries taking place near Walmart’s headquarters here in Northwest Arkansas.

The trial will make on-demand drone deliveries of “select health and wellness items using Zipline’s proprietary technology.” The company says the service has the potential to expand to general merchandise.

The move follows Walmart’s announcement last week that it would partner with the start-up Flytrex to pilot on-demand drone delivery of “select grocery and household essential items” in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

Zipline will operate from a Walmart store with a service ratio of 50 miles. Walmart says the system will allow for on-demand delivery in under an hour while eliminating carbon emissions.

In May, Zipline, a California-based startup, partnered with Novant Health to distribute personal protective and medical equipment in North Carolina amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The company, which operates the world’s largest drone delivery network, began operating in late 2016 in Rwanda, primarily focusing on on-demand delivery of medical supplies. According to Walmart’s release, Zipline has delivered “more than 200,000 critical medical products to thousands of health facilities serving more than 20 million people across multiple countries.”

Drone-delivery trials are expected to begin in Northwest Arkansas in early 2021.

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