Walmart says it is testing delivery of groceries and household items using automated drones, joining other retailers looking to beef up their delivery business amid the coronavirus.
The retailer launched a pilot on Wednesday in partnership with Flytrex, a drone-delivery company. The project, which will run in Fayetteville, North Carolina, will drop off “select grocery and household essential items” from Walmart stores to shoppers.
Walmart is among a handful of retailers whoseduring the pandemic amid a surge in ecommerce. The company’s online sales nearly doubled in its most recent quarter, while same-store sales rose 9%. Competitors Amazon and Target also saw their earnings jump this summer.
Walmart emphasized the experimental nature of the drone project, saying it would help the company learn about how customers and the retailer’s workers use the technology.
“We know that it will be some time before we see millions of packages delivered via drone,” the company said in a news release. “That still feels like a bit of science fiction, but we’re at a point where we’re learning more and more about the technology that is available and how we can use it to make our customers’ lives easier.”
Walmart customers can download the Flytex app to see if they’re eligible for drone delivery, a Walmart spokesperson said. The company did not offer details on the scale or duration of the pilot.
Last month, Amazon obtained approval from the Federal Aviation Administration for its ownsystem, which aims to convey packages to customers in 30 minutes or less. UPS and Alphabet subsidiary Wing also have FAA approval to do drone deliveries.