In a matter of months, residents of Frisco and Little Elm may be among the first to experience fast drone deliveries for small packages within 10 minutes.
Walgreens and drone delivery company Wing announced Wednesday plans to bring store-to-door delivery service to Dallas-Fort Worth, expanding into densely populated metropolitan areas in the United States.
Jacob Demmitt serves as the U.S. marketing and communications lead for Wing, which said Walgreens is the first retailer to provide drone delivery services in a major U.S. market.
"We’ll start with over-the-counter healthcare items, medicines. We’ll do snacks and food. One thing that we’re really excited about, and we hope we’ll be able to do, the COVID test kits," Demmitt said. "From the time you press order until there’s a package sitting at your house, it’s about 10 minutes. Our fastest delivery time ever was two minutes and 47 seconds."
Drones were delivered Wednesday to Frisco Station, which will serve as one of the company's facilities where the drones will be staged. The other facility will be at the Walgreens store on Eldorado Parkway. Starting out, they will offer the drone delivery service to people who live within about four miles of either facility.
"If you want to place an order, download the Wing app from the app store or Google Play. You’re going to type in your address and the app will tell you right away whether or not you’re eligible, so if you live in the service area and you have a good spot at your house where we’re able to deliver the package," Demmitt explained. "All we need is about a size of a picnic blanket. It doesn’t have any bushes or overhanging trees, power lines, things like that. Just a nice spot where we can set down the package. If you’re eligible, you’ll see the catalogs and you’ll be able to scroll through, pick what you want. It’s kind of just like any online shopping experience, you add it to your cart."
General weather conditions in the Dallas-Fort Worth region contributed to the company's decision in launching the service in North Texas, but Demmitt said they also looked at the aviation sector.
"So, kind of being able to tap into and the talent pool here was really crucial. Once we got into the Dallas-Fort Worth market, we started looking around. We pretty quickly identified Frisco and Little Elm as kind of being leaders in terms of the way they approach innovative projects like this," he told NBC 5 Wednesday. "There’s been robot deliveries. There have been self-driving cars in this area. There have been all sorts of stuff."
To prepare, test flights have been conducted since June at Hillwood’s AllianceTexas Flight Test Center. The drone testing facility is north of Alliance Airport in Fort Worth, according to Hillwood Properties President Mike Berry.
"I did have an opportunity to see the aircraft working. It’s an incredible sight. It’s amazing that they can actually pick up with such precision, a package, carry that package several miles and deliver it," Berry said. "I think citizens of North Texas will be amazed at how efficient this delivery system is. It won’t work for every product, but it certainly works, at least at this stage with the smaller packages."
Practice test flights in Frisco and Little Elm are expected to begin in the next few weeks, according to Demmitt. They also plan to set up delivery demonstrations to get feedback from the community before the service launches in the coming months, he said.
"It’s convenient and faster, but it’s better for the environment. It’s safer for the community, and then it’s cheaper for the business," he said. "It’s not a one-size-fits-all. It’s built for small packages delivered locally and we think it can be part of broader intelligent transportation infrastructure."
According to the Dallas Morning News, Wing has a Part 135 certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration required to operate such a service. UPS Flight Forward was the first company to receive the drone certificate in 2019, and Amazon’s Prime Air got one last year.