Walmart is now testing a flying drone delivery service it hopes will speed up shipments.
The pilot launches today in Fayetteville, North Carolina, using drones from Israeli startup Flytrex to deliver select grocery and household items from neighboring Walmart stores.
The retail giant uploaded a clip of the service, which shows a Walmart employee placing a bag with grocery items inside the drone. The six-propeller machine then takes off from the Walmart store, flies to the customer’s home, and drops the bag on their front lawn using a line tether.
“The drones, which are controlled over the cloud using a smart and easy control dashboard, will help us gain valuable insight into the customer and associate experience, from picking and packing to takeoff and delivery,” wrote Walmart SVP Tom Ward in the announcement.
Flytrex says its own drones can fly at 32 mph at a height of 230 feet. The bots can also carry up to 6.6 pounds and fly 3.5 miles and back.
The retail giant made the announcement after rival Amazon secured approval from U.S. regulators to operate a drone-based delivery fleet. Google’s sister company, Wing, has also received the same clearance, and already been making drone deliveries for retail items in Christiansburg, Virginia.
However, both Amazon and Wing are still refining the technology before embarking on a wider-scale launch. One of the main challenges is automating the flying machines while making sure they don’t crash into people’s homes.
“We know that it will be some time before we see millions of packages delivered via drone,” Walmart’s Tom Ward wrote. “That still feels like a bit of science fiction, but we’re at a point where we’re learning more and more about the technology that is available and how we can use it to make our customers’ lives easier.”
Walmart also has to stay competitive with Amazon when both are battling for customers in the e-commerce market. Last week, the retail giant announced Walmart+, a $98 annual subscription service that’ll compete against Amazon Prime when it launches on Sept. 15.
This article originally published at PCMag