Kroger begins pilot project for autonomous drone delivery

04 May 2021
The pilot will allow package delivery to a location on a customer’s smartphone not just a street address. Source: Kroger

Kroger is exploring new ways to get food and other items to its customers without them visiting the store.

Two years ago, the grocery giant started a pilot project with Nuro to use self-driving shuttles for deliveries to customers in Scottsdale, Arizona. Now, the company is looking at other alternative means of transportation by using Drone Express’ unmanned aerial systems (UAS) to expand anywhere, anytime deliveries autonomously.

The pilot will allow package delivery to a location on a customer’s smartphone not just a street address. This means that someone could order picnic supplies to a park, sunscreen to a beach or condiments to a backyard cookout.

Kroger is designing bundled product offerings to meet weight limits for drone delivery, which is about 5 lb. For example, Kroger is offering a baby care bundle with wipes and formula, a child wellness bundle with over-the-counter medications and fluids. Or a s’mores bundle with graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate.

"Autonomous drones have unlimited potential to improve everyday life, and our technology opens the way to safe, secure, environmentally friendly deliveries for Kroger customers," said Beth Flippo, CTO of Telegrid, which owns Drone Express. "The possibilities for customers are endless — we can enable Kroger customers to send chicken soup to a sick friend or get fast delivery of olive oil if they run out while cooking dinner."

Test flights will begin this week near the Kroger in Centerville, Ohio, and the flights will be managed by licensed Drone Express pilots from an on-site trailer with additional off-site monitoring. Customer deliveries will begin later in the spring with a second pilot scheduled to launch at a Ralphs store in California.

"The launch of the pilot in Centerville is the culmination of months of meticulous research and development by Kroger and Drone Express to better serve and meet the needs of our customers," said Ethan Grob, director of last mile strategy and product at Kroger. "We look forward to progressing from test flights to customer deliveries this spring, introducing one more way for our customers to experience Kroger."

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