Walgreens and Wing Aviation LLC, a member of the Alphabet family of companies, announced last week that it's offering what it calls "store to door" delivery of "health and wellness, food and beverage and convenience items — via state-of-the-art drone technology — in minutes," according to a press release. Wing, the first drone operator certified as an air carrier by the Federal Aviation Administration, will begin offering drone delivery service to eligible residents of Christiansburg, Va beginning next month. Orders are placed via the Wing app for drone delivery, and they can choose from more than 100 products and six convenient “packs” in the following categories: allergy, baby, cough/cold, first aid, pain, and kids’ snacks. Prescription deliveries aren't available via this service.
Christiansburg was selected as the test market as Wing has been working closely with nearby Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va. to test drone delivery as part of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Integration Pilot Program. While neither company discussed any specific plans for a national roll-out, Walgreens noted that 78 percent of the U.S. population lives within five miles of one of its stores, making it an ideal candidate for eventually bringing drones nationwide.
Total Retail's Take: Let's face it, this news doesn't mean shipping and delivery will be getting the "Jetson"-treatment worldwide, but this is a milestone that may mark the beginning of drone technology moving from science fiction to reality. This is the first time we've reported a real, scheduled roll-out for drone delivery vs. experiments, pilots or tests. What's more, Amazon.com said in June its new delivery drone should finally be ready “within months” to delivery packages to customers. Amazon has been working on ways to deliver orders via the air for years. Talks and testing of drone delivery started back in August 2015, and the first Prime Air drone delivery was completed in December 2016. What's more, CVS CEO Larry Merlo said in January the company was “doing some work” to distribute prescriptions by drone. We'll have to wait and see if the future really is now.