Kroger is joining rival Walmart by launching a drone delivery pilot program for groceries later this spring. The supermarket chain is partnering with Drone Express to deliver items like baby products, over-the-counter medications, and picnic supplies weighing up to about five pounds from a test store in Centerville, Ohio.
A landing page for the Kroger Drone Delivery service says that groceries will be flown by “certified drone pilots under FAA approval.” A press release suggests that deliveries can be made to street addresses as well as to parks or beaches by homing in on a customer’s smartphone location.
As part of the pilot, Kroger is designing bundled product offerings that fit within the size and weight constraints of the Drone Express vehicles. These include a baby care bundle with wipes and formula, another with over-the-counter medications and fluids, and a “S’mores bundle” with graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate. Krogers says eligible orders can be delivered in “as little as 15 minutes.”
“Autonomous drones have unlimited potential to improve everyday life, and our technology opens the way to safe, secure, environmentally friendly deliveries for Kroger customers,” said Kroger CTO Beth Flippo. “The possibilities for customers are endless – we can enable Kroger customers to send chicken soup to a sick friend or get fast delivery of olive oil if they run out while cooking dinner.”
Test flights, ahead of the consumer pilot, will begin this week from the Kroger Marketplace in Centerville, with flights managed from an on-site trailer with additional monitoring occurring offsite. A second pilot program is scheduled to launch this summer at a California Ralphs.
Walmart has been dabbling in drone deliveries since at least 2015. It is currently testing Flytrex drones in North Carolina for household goods and groceries, as well as Zipline drones in Arkansas for health and wellness products.