Taking the spotlight from Amazon, Walmart and DroneUp set up drone delivery hubs in Arkansas

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A drone carries a box for delivery from Walmart in Farmington, Ark. (Walmart / DroneUp Photo)

walmart Partnering with Virginia-based droneup On a network of drone delivery hubs starting with a neighborhood market in Farmington, Ark.

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The move puts Walmart ahead of its retail rival, Amazon, by expanding the range for air delivery. Amazon announced its drone development program in 2013, and two years ago, the company said regular drone deliveries were only months away. However, recent reports have indicated that the progress on Amazon Prime Air has slowed considerably.

We’ve reached out to Amazon and will update this report with any feedback.

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Today’s announcement about the first delivery hub in Arkansas comes five months after Walmart Made strategic investments in DroneUp and signed a contract that expanded the companies’ Pilot project for drone delivery, (The amount of the investment was not disclosed.)

Flight engineers get a package ready for drone delivery. (Walmart / DroneUp Photo)

“When we invested in DroneUp earlier this year, we envisioned a drone delivery operation that would be quickly executed across multiple stores,” Tom Ward, Last Mile Senior Vice President at Walmart US, said in a news release. And can be repeated.” “Opening our first hub within months of our initial conception demonstrates DroneUp’s ability to safely execute drone delivery options with speed.”

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The first hub is based at Walmart Neighborhood Market in Farmington, part of a larger metropolitan area in the northwest corner of Arkansas. The next two hubs are planned to be built near Walmart stores in Rodgers and Bentonville.

“The launch of three delivery hubs with Walmart marks a significant leap forward in the widespread use of UAS” [unmanned aerial systems] To provide last-mile consumer delivery services and supply chain efficiency operations, said DroneUp CEO Tom Walker.

DroneUp at least appears as Walmart in delivery operations: Customers check their eligibility first DroneUpDelivery.com website, based on their street address. If they live near a drone hub, they can shop online for a limited selection of deliverables on the website, then pay a shipping fee on orders of $10 to have goods delivered via AirDrop .

An air traffic control tower rises above DroneUp’s delivery hub. (Walmart / DroneUp Photo)

Shipments – limited to a total of £5 each – are packaged in boxes and shipped from the DroneUp hub next to a Walmart store. A flight operator monitors the progress of a camera-equipped drone from a control tower built into the hub. This avoids the tricky regulatory issues that would be raised by flying the drone beyond the operator’s line of sight. Delivery can be made in as little as 30 minutes, and the hub’s operations are designed to support multiple flights per hour.

Drone delivery service is available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. CT, weather permitting.

DroneUp says it is working closely with the Federal Aviation Administration to ensure the safe operation of drones in national airspace, and it has more than 190 active exemptions and authorizations that support its flights across the US. Huh.

The company says its system “provides a safe, fun and convenient way for Walmart shoppers to have small packages delivered directly to their homes by drone within 30 minutes from the time of order.”

In the coming years, Walmart aims to become a leader in drone delivery, thanks to its network of more than 4,700 US stores. Theoretically, each store could host a hub for neighborhood airdrops. But to be competitive, the per-delivery price will almost certainly have to be less than $10, and the restrictions governing remote drone operation will almost certainly need to be relaxed.

The FAA is still working with industry partners, including Amazon, on the technical capabilities and regulatory requirements it must have for widespread operations involving autonomous delivery drones.

Over the past several years, Amazon has tested drones in Washington state and across the US-Canadian border British Columbia, and it established drone development teams in the UK, France, Israel And Austria, In 2016, Amazon revealed that it was doing trial deliveries in England in the vicinity of Cambridge; And in 2019, Amazon’s Jeff Wilke unveiled a golf cart-sized drone, which he said will deliver packages to customers “in months.” (Since then, Wilke has left Amazon.)

That timeline never came to pass. Amazon Prime Air did manage to win the FAA’s official certification as an air carrier last year, and Amazon insists it’s still committed to turning its drone delivery dream into reality. company currently Amazon lists over 100 open positions on the Prime Air, most of which are located in the Seattle area. But there are also signs that Amazon has scaled down its plans for drone delivery.

Even before the FAA certification, the Amazon lab that was working on drone development was revamped to focus on innovations to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. In August, Wired UK reported that Amazon’s British drone team was being shortened After battling managerial and technical challenges. And this month, Bloomberg News reported that employees of Amazon’s Paris-based drone R&D center Reassigned to other projects,

Meanwhile, other companies, including UPS (which is partnering with the CVS pharmacy chain), wing (the Alphabet drone venture pioneered by Google), sky Drop (formerly known as Flirty) and zipline (which is Also partnered with Walmart in Arkansas) are rushing to expand their trials of drone delivery services. Thanks to a partnership with Walmart, you can now add DroneUp to your list of front-runners.

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