Christopher Lee | Bloomberg | Getty Images
The pilot program will deliver food and beverage, over-the-counter medications and other items within minutes, the company said. Prescription deliveries will not be available.
“Walgreens continues to explore partnerships to transform and modernize our customer experience and we are proud to be the first retailer in the U.S. to offer an on-demand commercial drone delivery option with Wing,” said chief innovation officer Vish Sankaran. He said the company wants to provide customers the products they “need wherever, whenever and however they may want them.”
Walgreens is just one of the companies scrambling to capture customers who look for quicker and more convenient deliveries. Amazon said in June its new delivery drone should be ready “within months” to delivery packages to customers. CVS CEO Larry Merlo said in January the company was “doing some work” to distribute prescriptions by drone.
“We still have a ways to go before [drones are] the norm in our transportation networks and so on,” said James Burgess, chief executive of Wing. “There’s a lot of sensitivity and concern about the technology, and we’re engaging with partners like Walgreens and FedEx to learn and get feedback.”
He wouldn’t say how soon drone delivery might be available nationwide.
The service will be tested in Christiansburg, Virginia, which has been working with the U.S. Department of Transportation to test drone delivery since 2016. Walgreens said that if and when services expand, the company is in a unique position to appeal to consumers, since approximately 78% of the U.S. live within five miles of a Walgreens. Wing’s drone currently has a delivery range of 10 kilometers or about 6 miles.
The test allows customers to choose from more than 100 individual products or from packs of curated items for allergies, babies, kids’ snacks, or cough and cold. In April, Wing was first drone operator to be certified as an air carrier by the Federal Aviation Administration, which allows it to deliver commercial goods. Amazon received FAA approval for Prime delivery in June.
Walgreens’ stock has fallen 20% since January and the company has a market value of $49 billion.