Walmart will use drones to deliver health products as it looks to take on Amazon in the skies.
The nation’s largest retailer plans to start testing on-demand deliveries of health and wellness items early next year in partnership with Zipline, which already operates drones in Africa, the company announced Monday.
The test flights will take off near Walmart’s Arkansas headquarters and drop off products in less than an hour at customers’ homes within a 50-mile radius, Walmart said. The company will look to expand the program if it’s successful and may eventually use the drones to deliver “general merchandise,” according to the announcement.
Walmart also released a video showing Zipline’s airplane-shaped drone being launched into the air and releasing a package that drops into a customer’s front yard with help from an attached parachute.
“We’ll never stop looking into and learning about what the next best technology is and how we can use it to better serve our customers now and into the future,” Tom Ward, Walmart’s senior vice president of customer product, said in a statement.
The announcement came less than a week after Walmart said it had launched a separate partnership with drone company Flytrex to deliver groceries and other essentials by air in North Carolina.
Both pilot programs appear aimed at Amazon, which won federal approval last month to operate a fleet of drones for its Prime Air service. Jeff Bezos’s e-commerce colossus wants to use flying robots to deliver packages less than 30 minutes after they’re ordered.
Walmart is also gearing up for the Tuesday launch of Walmart+, its answer to Amazon Prime. The subscription service will offer free delivery on more than 160,000 items in as little as one day for $98 a year or $12.95 a month.
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