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Walmart (WMT) has invested in drone delivery company DroneUp following a pilot last year with automated deliveries of COVID-19 nasal swab test kits as the world's largest retailer aims for drone deliveries at scale.
"The trial demonstrated we could offer customers delivery in minutes versus hours. Now, after safely completing hundreds of drone deliveries from Walmart stores, we’re making an investment in DroneUp to continue our work towards developing a scalable last mile delivery solution," Walmart U.S. CEO John Furner wrote in a blog on Thursday.
Critical to last-mile delivery through drones is Walmart's expansive footprint, with more than 4,700 stores across the U.S. and 90% of the population living within 10 miles of a location, Furner pointed out.
"Conducting drone deliveries at scale is within reach. DroneUp’s expertise combined with our retail footprint and proven history of logistics innovation puts us right where we want to be for that day. Because when it comes to the future of drone delivery, we know the sky’s the limit," Furner wrote.
According to Furner, the investment in DroneUp "won't just apply to the skies but also the ground." The executive added that the retailer will start operating with DroneUp at a store in Bentonville, Arkansas — Walmart's hometown — "in the coming months."
The DroneUp investment follows Walmart's April investment in San Francisco-based Cruise, a majority-owned subsidiary of General Motors (GM) that's the only self-driving car company with a fleet of all-electric vehicles powered with 100% renewable energy.
Walmart also has two other drone trials — one for select groceries and essential items in Fayetteville, North Carolina, in partnership with Flytrex and another for health and wellness products with Zipline in Northwest Arkansas.
Julia La Roche is a correspondent for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.