Walmart deal will create drone delivery hubs

From Virginia Business By

DroneUp Headquarters Building

DroneUp’s headquarters is in Virginia Beach. Photo courtesy DroneUp

Virginia Beach-based DroneUp LLC is making moves at the end of the year, with a new partnership with Walmart Inc. and the acquisition of Santa Monica, California-based AirMap Inc., a company specializing in air traffic management software for drones.

DroneUp and Walmart will have the first multisite commercial drone delivery operations, or hubs, in northwest Arkansas, according to a news release from DroneUp.

A Walmart store in Farmingham, Arkansas, is the first to offer drone services to customers, delivering within about 30 minutes. Two more stores, a Walmart Neighborhood Market in Rogers, Arkansas, and a Walmart Supercenter in Bentonville, Arkansas, will be the next two to feature drone delivery in the coming months.

“When we invested in DroneUp earlier this year, we envisioned a drone delivery operation that could be quickly executed and replicated across multiple stores,” said Tom Ward, senior vice president of last-mile at Walmart U.S., in a statement. “Opening our first hub within months of our initial concept showcases DroneUp’s ability to safely execute drone delivery operations with speed. We’re already hearing great customer feedback at our first site in Farmington, Arkansas, and look forward to opening additional locations.”

Walmart already has the infrastructure in place to serve more than 4,700 stores stocked with the 120,000 of the chain’s most-purchased items, according to a news release.

DroneUp announced the acquisition of AirMap Tuesday. Financial terms were not disclosed.

AirMap specializes in flight traffic management software for unmanned aerial vehicles, connecting airspace authorities with the drone ecosystem to exchange information about the low-altitude airspace traffic management environment using a cloud-based dashboard. It’s one of three international platforms for unmanned aircraft traffic management, according to DroneUp.

“We’ve integrated with the best aerospace teams to bring drone delivery and flight services to market faster and more economically with our patented flight management software, and now the industry’s No. 1 UTM solution,” said DroneUp CEO Tom Walker in a statement. “We believe DroneUp has a moral obligation to continue investment in and expansion of the AirMap platform. We will ensure this resource remains openly available to the drone industry, municipalities and the Federal Aviation Administration.”

The acquisition combines AirMap’s global airspace management with DroneUp’s network, fleet and infrastructure. The acquisition gives DroneUp solutions for the three most significant hurdles in the drone industry: ground game/pilots, software/hardware, and unmanned aircraft traffic management.

“We are excited to be joining the DroneUp team,” said Ben Marcus, co-founder of AirMap in a statement. “Since its inception, AirMap has worked to create a future where drones deliver value to millions of people in their everyday lives. DroneUp is also committed to this mission, and through its resilient, extensible network and partnership with Walmart, I am confident that we are going to create this reality.”

Marcus will be an adviser to DroneUp. Andi Lamprecht, vice president of research and development, will join DroneUp.

In April 2020, DroneUp acquired Glenview, Illinois-based AeroVista Innovations LLC, which provides drone training for private and public sectors called the DroneUp Training Academy.

DroneUp operates throughout the U.S. and is an authorized government drone services provider in 13 states and has more than 190 active waivers and authorizations with the FAA. The company was started by Walker in 2016 and provides aerial data collection, training, program integration and equipment sales.