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Walmart begins COVID-19 test kit drone delivery

This move by Walmart follows its recent trend of moving more into the healthcare space.

Photo credit: WalmartPhoto credit: Walmart

Walmart on Tuesday announced the start of its pilot program to deliver COVID-19 self-administered test kits to people's homes using drones.

The program was developed through a partnership between Walmart, Quest Diagnostics and DroneUp. It began today on a trial period in North Las Vegas and will start in Cheektowaga, New York, in early October.

Qualifying recipients must live in a single-family residence within one mile from a designated Walmart Supercenter. The drones will drop the kits off on the driveway, front sidewalk or backyard of the customer's home, according to Walmart.

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Both the kit and the drone delivery are free of charge. Once the test is completed, customers will send their samples back to Quest Diagnostics for testing using a prepaid shipping label included in the test kit.

WHY THIS MATTERS

This move by Walmart follows its recent trend of moving more into the healthcare space.

The retail giant began operating its Walmart Health clinics last year and announced this week it would be expanding to include 22 facilities by the end of 2021.

Walmart this month has been exploring drone delivery of grocery and household items in North Carolina and health and wellness products in Arkansas.

Walmart faces competition in drone delivery from Amazon, which recently received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly its Prime Air delivery drones.

In the health space, CVS signed an agreement with the United Parcel Service last year to explore drone delivery for the pharmacy retailer's in-store products. Walgreens also entered a partnership with Alphabet's drone delivery arm, Wing.

THE LARGER TREND

The total number of COVID-19 cases is over 6.8 million, with more than 288,000 in the last week. The death toll is now 200,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In an effort to mitigate the spread, companies are working to make testing as easy as possible. For example, Abbott recently released a rapid-result test for $5.

ON THE RECORD

"There's a lot we can learn from our drone delivery pilots to help determine what roles drones can play in pandemic response, health care delivery and retail," said Tom Ward, senior vice president of customer product at Walmart. "We hope drone delivery of self-collection kits will shape contactless testing capabilities on a larger scale and continue to bolster the innovative ways Walmart plans to use drone delivery in the future."

Twitter: @HackettMallory
Email the writer: mhackett@himss.org