Oft-delayed program to roll out this year
SEATTLE – Amazon customers in College Station, Texas, will soon be able to order merchandise and get it delivered by a drone.
The news last week followed a recent report that Amazon was working with the Federal Aviation Administration on a plan that would allow shoppers in Lockeford, Calif., to be among the first served by the company’s decade-old drone delivery program.
Shoppers in both communities can expect drone deliveries to begin later this year.
Amazon began to develop and test the use of unmanned flying vehicles in 2013. In 2016, it made its first drone delivery – an Amazon Fire TV streaming device and a bag of popcorn — to a customer in Cambridge, England, after the U.K.’s Civilian Aviation Authority authorized Amazon to test its autonomous drones.
In 2020, Amazon won the FAA’s official certification as an air carrier in the United States.
But Amazon repeatedly missed projections as to when the Amazon Prime Air program would begin using its custom-designed drones to make deliveries to regular customers. With progress reportedly slowed by technical challenges and safety concerns, rival retailers have moved ahead with their own autonomous delivery programs.
Walmart in May said it would be expanding the DroneUp express delivery network to 34 states by the end of the year. The network was launched last year in partnership with Virginia-based DroneUp LLC, starting with test deliveries from a hub adjacent to a Walmart Neighborhood Market in Farmington, Ark. A flight operator monitors the camera-equipped drone’s progress from a control tower erected at the hub.
Walmart said thousands of items are included in the DroneUp service. There is a 10-pound weight limit for the drone air deliveries and a $3.99 fee for the express guarantee of delivery within 30 minutes of the purchase.
Walmart teamed up with Quest Diagnostics and DroneUp in 2020 to deliver at-home COVID-19 testing kits in North Las Vegas, Nev., and Cheektowaga, N.Y.
Walgreens Boots Alliance is working with Wing — the Alphabet drone venture pioneered by Google — on a pilot on-demand drone delivery service in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
CVS and UPS in 2019 agreed to jointly explore the use of drone delivery, and the following year unveiled a plan to deliver prescription medicines from a CVS pharmacy to The Villages, Fla., the largest U.S. retirement community, home to more than 135,000 residents.
The Kroger Co. last year entered a partnership with Drone Express, a division of New Jersey-based Telegrid Technologies, to test delivery of groceries by autonomous drones from a Kroger store in Centerville, Ohio.