If you’re like me, you grew up thinking the world was going to be a drastically different utopian (or dystopian) futurescape by 2022 or so. Cars would be flying and self-driving, drones would be delivering groceries and mail, computers would be embedded in our brains, and all the plants would be dead (because we used them to make Thneeds, which everyone needs). It turns out, I wasn’t entirely wrong. In addition to self-driving cars and a lot of dead plants, drone delivery exists. And it’s about to become a lot more common since Walmart just announced the launch of drone delivery in six states by the end of the year.
Drone delivery is not new but it has been, quite literally, slow to take off. Amazon’s drone delivery program (after being launched with much fanfare back in 2013) has been fraught with pitfalls, while Kroger piloted a small drone delivery service in Ohio last year. But if Walmart’s large-scale attempt to incorporate delivery drones is successful, it could change the game for grocery delivery.
Here’s what we know so far: According to Walmart, delivery by drone will cost $3.99 and will be available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. to customers living in certain parts of Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Texas, Utah, and Virginia. If you live within range, you’ll be able to order up to ten pounds of goods from “tens of thousands of eligible items” which will get packaged up at a DroneUp delivery hub (located at each participating Walmart store) and delivered by drone straight to your home. There, your items will be “gently” lowered with a cable into your yard (this seems like a better method than the unceremonious drop from the sky I had imagined). A huge bonus is the speed: The whole process could take “as little as 30 minutes.”
In addition to home delivery, Walmart will also be providing some drone services to other businesses in the areas where the program is launching. “DroneUp will offer local businesses and municipalities aerial drone solutions in areas like insurance, emergency response, and real estate,” says the website. For example, if a local construction company needed drone footage, they could work something out with Walmart.
This type of technology sounds really cool, if not a bit terrifying. I’m not sure how I feel about it. But I guess I’ll find out whenever these drones make it to California (which I imagine will be pretty soon, once the flying robots find out about our great beaches and buzz right on over to check out the surf).