Walgreens Testing Flying Drone Delivery

Drugstore chain will offer on-demand service to Christiansburg, Va., residents next month
Photograph courtesy of Wing

DEERFIELD, Ill. — Walgreens and Wing Aviation LLC are partnering to offer “store-to-door” delivery of health and wellness, food and beverage and convenience items—via flying drones—in minutes. The move marks yet another disruptive change to the meaning of convenience as convenience stores attempt to adjust to modern customer preferences.

Walgreens and Wing, a drone operator certified as an air carrier by the Federal Aviation Administration earlier this year, will begin offering drone delivery service to eligible residents of Christiansburg, Va., beginning in October. The companies said they will use the pilot program to further explore the future of health and wellness product and retail delivery through the air, offering product availability and home delivery minutes after placing orders via the Wing app.

“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 Vish Sankaran, chief innovation officer of Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. “With a customer-led focus, we continue to create differentiated shopping experiences that provide the products and services consumers need wherever, whenever and however they may want them. This is the kind of omnichannel partnership and offering that can redefine convenience for our customers and communities—delivering items to homes in minutes, not hours or days.”

The companies selected Christiansburg as the test market because Wing has been working closely with nearby Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., to test drone delivery as part of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Integration Pilot Program since 2016. Although the pilot is currently in only one market, Walgreens is in a good position to capitalize on the convenience of drone delivery if and when it should expand, with approximately 78% of the U.S. population living within 5 miles of a Walgreens-owned drugstore.

Eligible customers in the Christiansburg area will have access to more than 100 products and six “packs” via the Wing app that include many of Walgreens most sought-after products in store. Customers can choose the individual products they need or, for simplicity’s sake, choose one of the prebuilt packs in the following categories: allergy, baby, cough/cold, first aid, pain and kids snacks. Prescription deliveries are not available via this service. The drone delivery option meets use cases in which customers may want health and wellness or food and beverage items immediately but leaving home is not ideal.

The announcement from Walgreens and Wing comes shortly after Seattle-based online retailer Amazon announced it would launch flying delivery drones with a similar carrying capacity and distance traveled “within months.” In 2016, Irving, Texas-based 7-Eleven Inc. launched a flying drone test in Nevada with Las Vegas-based Flirtey.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Wing is a member of the Alphabet family of companies, which also includes Google.

Deerfield, Ill.-based Walgreens operates more than 9,500 drugstores with a presence in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, along with its omnichannel business, Approximately 400 Walgreens stores offer Healthcare Clinic or other provider retail clinic services.

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