Meet Paul and Susie: The World’s Most Satisfied Retail Drone Customers

One of the frequently heard complaints about retail drone delivery is that aggregate consumer demand for the service remains weak.  It’s true: Amazon’s service, which finally got off the ground last December after years of delay, is still limping along, with at most several hundred drone deliveries to its credit.

And Walmart, with 36 drone hubs spread out across six states, including Texas, Virginia and Arkansas, has made no more than 10,000 total deliveries to date, about one per day, a paltry number.

But that doesn’t mean drone delivery customers are dissatisfied with their current service.

Take Paul and Susie in Christiansburg, VA.  It’s a small conservative town (pop. 21,500) where an unusually high percentage of residents are seniors, mostly retirees in their 70s and 80s.  Many don’t drive and some have trouble getting around on foot.

Susie, who had knee surgery last year, says she can barely make the walk to her front yard to pick up a delivery from Wing, the drone company that delivers fresh food and store goods from Walgreens and several groceries and restaurants located about a mile away in the center of town.

Susie and her husband swear by the service.  “We love it.  It’s become a daily habit,” she says.

In a recently posted YouTube video, Paul dug out a list of all the food and store items that he and Susie have ordered through Wing since the company first started its aerial delivery service in Christiansburg back in 2019.

Topping the list?  Over 350 meals from a local Mexican restaurant and 217 strawberry muffins from a local bakery.  Other frequently ordered items include bottles of orange juice (117), bottles of sparkling water (82) and boxes of Girl Scout cookies (93).  The list also includes cans of chicken soup, fruit cups and packages of tissue.

All told, the couple has received 1,154 drone deliveries to date – the most by a single customer anywhere in the US.

Wing’s delivery system is simple – and trouble free.  The company’s drone is lightweight, just 10 lbs, and can deliver items weighing 3 lbs. or less.  The aircraft hovers about 25-30 feet over the front yard of the couple’s property and using a tether rope, it gently lowers a cardboard box containing the ordered items to the ground.  Once the box touches down, the tether is released, and the drone flies away.

Susie says she and her husband, due to their advancing age and reduced mobility, are moving into an assisted living facility later this year.

“We might have had to do it two or three years ago were it not for the delivery service.  It’s been a real lifesaver, let me tell you,” she says.

And not just for Bill and Susie.  Over the years, many of their elderly neighbors have followed their example.  “It’s really started to catch on,” Paul says.

Wing’s pioneering operation in Christiansburg was actually the first recorded drone commercial delivery service in U.S. history.  The company has gone on to conduct tens of thousands of drone deliveries across Australia and Finland and has recently returned to the US to establish a second delivery hub in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

But the company hasn’t forgotten about its hub in Christiansburg – far from it.  Last June, Wing approached the local town council with a proposal to establish a public reception site – for example, a community recreation center – where residents living in areas far beyond Christiansburg could receive deliveries from Wing and its store clients on a recurring basis.

Unlike the current on-demand system, with separate flights to individual homes,  the company would deliver packages to the reception site for storage and eventual pick-up.  Additional customer travel to the site would likely be required.

The new system may not be convenient for all customers – especially those seeking hot food deliveries or other ready-to-eat items – but it would allow residents in outlying areas to shop for their groceries and store goods online and to pick them all up at a single location, saving them time and hassle.

Wing calls its proposed system an “intermediate” step –  a way to expand its customer base to a wider pool of businesses and residents without having to seek additional FAA approval for long-distance flights, a cumbersome process that could take months to complete.

Paul and Susie haven’t yet heard about Wing’s new plan.  Apparently, there’s no package delivery service at their future assisted living center – by drone or otherwise.  Susie knows because she checked.

“We’re gonna have to change that,” she says.

Will Wing find a way to accommodate its most loyal customers?  The company’s current proposal before the town council doesn’t call for deliveries to private residential centers, but with growing customer demand, especially among the elderly, it may be just a matter of time.

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