FedEx teams up with Walgreens and Wing Aviation for US drone deliveries

By Damian Brett

Wing Aviation drone

Drone firm Wing Aviation, FedEx Express and US retailer Walgreens are planning to launch a “first-of-its-kind drone delivery service” in Christiansburg, Virginia next month.

The pilot programme aims to demonstrate the “many benefits of drone delivery to communities by exploring methods to enhance last-mile delivery service, improve access to health care products, and create a new avenue of growth for local businesses”.

FedEx said that drone delivery in the US has historically been limited to small-scale demonstrations on designated test sites, or extremely short flights along pre-planned, fixed routes – all within the visual line of sight of the drone operator.

But earlier this year, Wing became the first drone operator to be certified as an air carrier by the Federal Aviation Administration, allowing it to deliver commercial goods to recipients miles away.

Wing’s pilot programme in Virginia will be conducted as part of the US Department of Transportation’s Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program (IPP).

FedEx customers who live within designated delivery zones in Christiansburg and who opt in to the Wing delivery service, will be able to receive their packages via drone during the trial, provided certain operating conditions are met.

The Walgreens and Wing offering will provide greater convenience and access to health and wellness, food, beverage and convenience products by making over-the-counter medicines and other items available to local residents for delivery on-demand, through the air, within minutes after they are ordered.

“Through our partnership with Wing, Walgreens will be the first US retailer to offer an on-demand commercial drone delivery option in the US, allowing us to explore another omni-channel offering for the delivery of products and services our customers want and need – wherever, whenever and however they may want them,” said Vish Sankaran, chief innovation officer, Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc.

“With this pilot, Walgreens will be in a unique position to capitalise on the convenience of drone delivery if and when it should expand, with approximately 78% of the US population living within five miles of a Walgreens store.”

FedEx is not the only express firm looking to set up drone deliveries in the US. Earlier this year, UPS announced that it had applied to the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for Part 135 certification to operate commercial drone flights in the UPS network under a subsidiary business called UPS Flight Forward Inc.

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