Walmart and Wing Establish a New Drone Hub in North Texas

Four months ago, Walmart announced that it was beginning store deliveries by drone from its super store outlet in Frisco, a town of 210,000 residents located in North Texas.  At the time, Walmart said it would start drone deliveries in another North Texas town “soon” – but it didn’t say where.  Last week, it disclosed that location, Lewisville, TX, with a population of 113.000.

The addition of Lewisville brings to 12 the number of Walmart drone hubs in Texas alone – a third of the 36 launch sites in seven states across the US, including Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Utah and Arkansas, where Walmart’s headquarters is based.

Walmart’s drone partner in Texas is Wing, owned by Alphabet, Google’s parent firm.  The eleven-year old company, which first proved itself with tens of thousands of successful remote aerial delivery operations in Australia and New Zealand, has recently emerged as one of the nation’s premier drone companies, alongside Zipline,  UPS Flight Forward and Flytrex, all of which are FAA-approved.

Wing has just received an additional FAA certification for BVLOS flights nationwide, which should prove useful as Walmart continues to expand its operations to new states and store sites, some of them located in larger and more populated cities where safety concerns have limited more extensive drone delivery operations to date.

While the FAA still requires other drone companies to conduct its flights under constant visual observation and digital tracking, Wing now has the authority to dispense with these restrictions, and to fly beyond the “last mile” delivery zone reserved for companies deemed less airworthy.

Elsewhere in the US – at store outlets in northwestern Arkansas, for example – Walmart has maintained its original partnership with Virginia-based Drone-Up.  Walmart also works selectively with California-based Zipline and Israel-based Flytrex, but its most recent partnership with Wing could prove to be its most extensive – and lucrative.

“Working with Wing directly aligns with our passion for finding innovative and eco-friendly last-mile delivery solutions to get customers the items they want, when they want them,” reads a recent Walmart press statement. “With drones that can fly beyond visual line of sight, we’re able to unlock on-demand delivery for customers living within an approximate 6-mile range of the stores that offer the service.”

In addition to extending the scope of Walmart deliveries around its current store outlets, Wing’s plans for a scaled-up delivery network based on vertiports could eventually extend retail deliveries to all of Walmart’s 40,000 store outlets nationwide, regardless of the distances involved.

In North Texas, Wing plans to reach some 60,000 Walmart retail customers in the two cities, about six times the number reached in 2022-2023.

As part of its plans to expand its partnership with Walmart, Wing has just added two new senior executives to its company leadership team:  Martín Gomez as Chief Technology Officer and Cosimo Leipold as Global Head of Partnerships.

Gomez has decades of experience in unmanned aircraft systems, spacecraft, and embedded systems development while Leipold comes to Wing after seven years as a founding member of Nuro, a leading on-road autonomous delivery company, where he was a founding member.  Leipold helped Nuro secure multi-million dollar deals with some of the world’s best known brands, including Walmart, Kroger, and UberEATS.

Expect 2024 to be a major growth year for Walmart and Wing, and as more companies receive advanced FAA certification, a catalyst for the expansion of the aerial drone delivery market overall.

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