Drone Deliveries Coming to North Texas
Have you ever wished a couple of pints of Blue Bell could just drop from the sky while you’re hanging out by the pool? Well, wish granted starting Thursday for tens of thousands of householders in Frisco and Little Elm, Texas.
Store deliveries by drone are no longer a futuristic idea. North Texas residents will be among the first to decide whether drones will end up being key links in the on demand economy.
Walgreens and Wing, a drone delivery company owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet, will start their partnership in North Texas this week. There’s no charge for delivery, and all items are priced the same as in the store.
Another company, Flytrex, recently started making drone deliveries from Dallas-based Brinker International’s restaurants, Chili’s and Maggiano’s, to residents south of Fort Worth in Granbury. DroneUp, a company that has worked with Walmart on a test in Arkansas, has posted job openings in Dallas for drone pilots and a business development manager.
Several tests have been underway in recent years. But like online grocery shopping, which years ago had a premature launch, it remains to be seen whether consumers will come to rely on the service or treat is as a novelty.
Not everyone who lives in Frisco and Little Elm will be able to order ice cream and other items on Thursday. Residents can find out at wing.com/dfw whether their neighborhood is eligible for the Wing and Walgreens service. To get a drone delivery, they’ll need to sign up and order from that site or the Wing app.
“We’re going to invite customers in groups to make sure everyone has a good first experience,” said Wing’s chief technology officer Adam Woodworth. Wing first announced its plans last year and since then has been setting up booths at community events, parades and farmers markets so people can see the drones up close.
Walgreens orders will be processed by the drugstore chain’s employees at 2774 Eldorado Parkway in Little Elm. But the products will ship on Wing-operated drones from what’s called a nest located at the store.
At a second nest at Frisco Station, Wing has partnered with Blue Bell Creameries to deliver ice cream, Easyvet for prescription pet medications and Texas Health for first aid kits.
Two pints of ice cream fit in the drone carrier and “won’t melt even in the worst Texas heat,” said Jacob Demmitt, Wing’s U.S. marketing manager.
“The flight takes two to three minutes, the equivalent of walking to your car from the grocery store,” he said. The drones travel 65 miles per hour, 150 feet above the ground, and had to receive approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.
Wing believes it has already proven the concept.
Its drones have made more than 200,000 commercial deliveries in three markets: in Christiansburg, Virginia, and in cities in Australia and Finland. It took 2.5 years to get to 100,000 deliveries and only the past six months to add a second 100,000.
Australia is its most mature market, and there it’s making 1,000 deliveries a day, Demmitt said, “or one every 25 seconds.”