Originally Published by: Brian Sozzi·Editor-at-Large
Kroger (KR) is entering the drone delivery race.
The 2,800-store supermarket giant said Monday it inked a deal with drone delivery provider Drone Express to pilot grocery delivery via autonomous drones. Test flights begin this week near a Kroger store in Centerville, Ohio.
Drone Express’ licensed pilots will manage the flights from a trailer at the store along with additional off-site monitoring. Deliveries for Kroger customers from the Centerville store commence later this spring. A second pilot program is slated to launch this summer at a Ralph’s store (a banner owned by Kroger) in California.
As for what will be delivered in the early going, it won’t be heavy tomahawk steaks.
Kroger said it’s designing bundled product offerings that are the most ideal for shoppers, and within the current weight limits for drone delivery (usually around five pounds). The company plans to initially offer a baby care bundle with wipes and formula, a child wellness bundle with over-the-counter medications and fluids, and a s’mores bundle that has graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate.
Drone orders will be placed online and could be delivered within 15 minutes.
“The pilot reinforces the importance of flexibility and immediacy to customers, powered by modern and efficient last-mile solutions. We’re excited to test drone delivery and gain insights that will inform expansion plans as well as future customer solutions,” said Jody Kalmbach, Kroger’s group vice president of product experience.
Kroger isn’t alone with beginning to dabble in drone delivery as tech-savvy shoppers demand more of their orders somewhat instantly.
In September 2020, Walmart unveiled a tie-up with drone delivery provider Zipline. The pilot program will start this summer, according to freight publication Freight Waves. Flights will reportedly operate out of Walmart’s Pea Ridge, Ark., store and reach customers within a 50-mile radius. As Yahoo Finance’s Julia La Roche reported, the products included for Walmart’s drone delivery are health and wellness items and potentially general merchandise.
Meanwhile, the robotics team at Amazon has built their own Prime delivery drones. They landed certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in August 2020. UPS and Alphabet-owned Wing secured FAA certification for drone delivery in 2019.
UPS last year began delivering prescription medicines from a CVS pharmacy via drones to more than 135,000 residents in Florida’s retirement community, The Villages, Yahoo Finance’s Adam Shapiro recently reported. The use of drones came as the COVID-19 pandemic essentially locked people in their homes, unable to access critical medications.