More AI news in the industry this week with Kroger Co., the largest grocery retailer in the U.S., announcing on May 3 it is partnering with Drone Express (a division of TELEGRID Technologies) to provide autonomous drone grocery delivery, the first test flight taking place this week in the Midwest.
Actual deliveries are planned for this spring.
According to a Kroger release, the AI will enable the company to provide customers “with anything, anytime, anywhere.”
The release said, “Kroger continues to transform grocery e-commerce with introduction of drone delivery pilot taking flight this spring in the Midwest in partnership with Drone Express,” quoting Jody Kalmbach, group VP of product experience.
Kalmbach said, “Kroger’s new drone delivery pilot is part of the evolution of our rapidly growing and innovative e-commerce business – which includes pickup, delivery, and ship and reached more than $10 billion in sales in 2020. The pilot reinforces the importance of flexibility and immediacy to customers, powered by modern, cost-effective, and efficient last-mile solutions. We’re excited to test drone delivery and gain insights that will inform expansion plans as well as future customer solutions.”
The technology and execution are impressive: “The pilot will offer customers unparalleled flexibility as Drone Express technology allows package delivery to the location of a customer’s smartphone not only to a street address, simply meaning a customer will be able to order delivery of picnic supplies to a park, sunscreen to the beach, or condiments to a backyard cookout, for instance.”
With a weight limit of “about five pounds,” the program is being designed for “bundled product offerings ideal for meeting customer needs” within that limit.
“As an illustration, Kroger will offer a baby care bundle with wipes and formula, a child wellness bundle with over-the-counter medications and fluids, and a S’mores bundle with graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate,” it said.
Using the online ordering site of Kroger.com/DroneDelivery, “customers can place orders and have eligible orders delivered within as little as 15 minutes.”
TELEGRID Chief Tech Officer Beth Flippo said, “Autonomous drones have unlimited potential to improve everyday life, and our technology opens the way to safe, secure, environmentally friendly deliveries for Kroger customers. 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.”
The test flights of Drone Express were scheduled to start this week near the Kroger Marketplace in Centerville, OH.
The flights are to be managed by licensed Drone Express pilots “from an on-site trailer with additional off-site monitoring,” the release explained.
“Customer deliveries are scheduled to begin later this spring, and a second pilot is scheduled to launch this summer at a Ralphs store in California,” it continued.
Ethan Grob, Kroger director of last mile strategy and product, said, “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. We look forward to progressing from test flights to customer deliveries this spring, introducing one more way for our customers to experience Kroger.”
And Centerville Mayor Brooks Compton noted, “Kroger and Drone Express made a great choice in piloting this program in Centerville – a community with a robust business network focused on progress and stability near the birthplace of aviation. Families here have the power to transform grocery delivery around the nation and the globe. We look forward to placing our first order.”