Last week, retail giant Walmart had already started a program that delivers COVID-19 test kits through a drone. However, the pilot efforts only serviced those within the one-mile radius from its Supercenters store in North Las Vegas.
Deliveries Through Drones
Beginning Tuesday last week, Walmart has piloted its drone delivery of COVID-19 testing kits. For this program, the company has worked with Quest Diagnostics for the coronavirus at-home self-collection kits. Meanwhile, for the drones, it partnered with DroneUp, a nationwide drone services provider.
Drones are delivering COVID-19 self-collection kits to qualifying residences in North Las Vegas. We hope this trial and partnership with @QuestDX and @godroneup will help shape larger scale contactless testing and future delivery capabilities. https://t.co/jGqeOUMvJQ pic.twitter.com/IMhUCC2DVo
— Walmart Inc. (@WalmartInc) September 22, 2020
While its trial for North Las Vegas started, Walmart plans to introduce the drone delivery to Cheektowaga, New York, by early October.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, Walmart has remained focused on serving our communities,” Tom Ward wrote in a release. He serves as the senior vice president for customer product at Walmart. He noted that the company’s efforts include innovations around contactless ways to shop and coronavirus testing. Furthermore, Ward said that Walmart prioritizes the “health and safety of our associates and customers.”
“We’ve remained dedicated to supporting efforts to expand COVID-19 testing through our drive-thru testing and partnerships with federal and state governments, labs, and insurance companies,” Ward added.
How the Delivery Works
In the press release, Walmart said that the drone will bring the testing kits on the driveway, front sidewalk, or backyard of a qualifying customer’s home. It said the deliveries would land depending on “where there are cars and trees.”
Upon receiving the kits, customers can then perform a nasal swab for themselves at the comfort—”and privacy”—of their own homes. Afterward, customers will send their samples to Quest Diagnostics through FedEx. Walmart said it will include a prepaid shipping label for this.
Walmart also said it would not charge for a delivery fee for kits sent by drones. Meanwhile, deliveries can encounter difficulties like weather, power lines, trees, or physical barriers. So, Quest Diagnostics said it will survey the delivery areas “in real time” prior, CNN reports.
The Future of Delivery
Recently, Walmart said that it had announced two other drone delivery systems, one for groceries and essential items and the other for health and wellness products.
Ward also said that Walmart can learn a lot from their drone delivery trials. This program, Ward added, can help them know the roles of drones in pandemic response, as well as in retail and health care delivery.
“We hope drone delivery of self-collection kits will shape contactless testing capabilities on a larger scale and continue to bolster the innovative ways Walmart plans to use drone delivery in the future.”