U.S. consumers may one day be able to acquire at-home Covid-19 test kits by air thanks to a new partnership between retail giant Walmart, clinical laboratory Quest Diagnostics and drone services provider DroneUp.
In a blog post, Walmart said it will begin trial deliveries of Covid-19 collection kits starting Sept. 22 in North Las Vegas, with Cheektowaga, N.Y., which is just outside Buffalo, to follow in early October.
Customers who quality for test kits by drone must live in single-family homes within a one-mile radius of designated Supercenters in those test areas. There is no cost for either the kit or delivery from Virginia Beach, Va.-based DroneUp.
Tom Ward, senior vice president of customer product at Walmart, said the kit will land on the driveway, sidewalk or backyard, depending where trees and cars are located. After delivery, customers will perform their own nose swabs and then send the samples to Quest Diagnostics for testing using a prepaid shipping label to be included with the order.
“There’s a lot we can learn from our drone delivery pilots to help determine what roles drones can play in pandemic response, health care delivery and retail,” Ward wrote. “We hope drone delivery of self-collection kits will shape contactless testing capabilities on a larger scale and continue to bolster the innovative ways Walmart plans to use drone delivery in the future.”
It’s been a big month for Walmart and drone delivery.
In early September, Walmart announced a partnership with Tel Aviv-based drone delivery company Flytrex to deliver “select grocery and household essential items” in Fayetteville, N.C. But, according to Flytrex, it is also delivering “multiple care packs with essentials” from a Walmart Supercenter in Grand Forks, N.D.
Then, just a few days later, the retailer said it also plans to begin testing a “first-of-its-kind drone delivery operation in the U.S.” early next year with drone delivery network company Zipline that will focus on health and wellness products. In a blog post announcing the partnership, Ward said there is potential to expand to general merchandise later.
The Zipline trial will focus on the area near Walmart’s headquarters in Northwest Arkansas. According to Ward, Zipline will operate from a Walmart store and can service a 50-mile radius.
“And, not only does their launch and release system allow for quick on-demand delivery in under an hour, but it also eliminates carbon emissions, which lines up perfectly with our sustainability goals,” he added.
Nevada, New York and Arkansas mark an expansion for drone trials in the U.S., which were previously concentrated in the middle of the Eastern Seaboard. Last November, UPS completed two prescription deliveries in partnership with CVS Pharmacy in Cary, N.C. And, just north of the state border in Virginia, Wing Aviation, the air delivery subsidiary of Google parent Alphabet, is working with FedEx and Walgreens to bring drone deliveries to customers in Christiansburg.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, Walmart has remained focused on serving our communities, be it through innovating around contactless ways to shop or through our Covid-19 testing,” Ward wrote. “The health and safety of our associates and customers has been our top priority, and we’ve remained dedicated to supporting efforts to expand Covid-19 testing through our drive-thru testing and partnerships with federal and state governments, labs and insurance companies.”
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