TAMPA, Fla. — Whether you can't get to the store for an emergency item or you just don't feel like going grocery shopping for dinner, Walmart is about to make it a whole lot easier to get things delivered.
The supermarket giant is expanding its drone delivery service, in partnership with the company DroneUp, to reach 4 million households across the country, including right here in the Tampa Bay area.
Now, this service isn't for your full grocery shopping list — there's already two-hour express delivery for that. Walmart says it's for smaller items like "Tylenol, diapers and hot dog buns" that can total up to 10 pounds.
"If it fits safely it flies," David Guggina, Walmart's senior vice president of innovation and automation, wrote in an announcement.
Here's how it works.
Once customers place an order, the items will be packaged at the store and loaded onto a drone which will fly over to your house and gently lower the package to your front yard using a cable. According to Walmart, the items will get to your house in as little as 30 minutes. Drone delivery will be available between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m.and include a $3.99 fee.
Walmart began testing its drone delivery service in November last year for shoppers living within a 50-mile radius of its headquarters in Arkansas. And since then, the company has learned a bit about what customers really want to be brought to their doorstep.
According to Guggina, the team initially thought people would use the service for emergency items, but it instead found that people took advantage of the convenience factor to get last-minute meals delivered.
"Case in point: The top-selling item at one of our current hubs is Hamburger Helper," he wrote.
Walmart says each participating store will have a team of certified drone pilots who will manage flight operations within Federal Aviation Administration guidelines. While we don't know exactly when the service will be available, Walmart says its drone delivery expansion will hit 34 sites in six states, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Texas, Utah and Virginia, by the end of the year.
The company also eventually hopes to take its DroneUp partnership beyond Walmart package delivery. Guggina wrote that Walmart will use its data to "influence the expansion of drone technology and enable other businesses to explore its benefits, too." According to Walmart, that includes local businesses and municipalities.
Walmart's InHome delivery service, which allows workers to go into your house and put groceries right into your fridge, was brought to Tampa earlier this year.