CINCINNATI and MONROE, Ohio — Kroger and Drone Express, a division of Telegrid Technologies, this week announced a pilot to offer grocery delivery via autonomous drones.
"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," said Kroger's Jody Kalmbach, group vice president of product experience. "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."
How the Drone Grocery Delivery Pilot Works
Kroger, which QA profiled back in 2017, said the pilot will offer customers flexibility as Drone Express technology allows package delivery to the location of a customer's smartphone, not only to a street address, 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.
Kroger is designing bundled product offerings to meet potential customer needs within the current weight limits for drone delivery, which is about 5 pounds. 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. Using kroger.com/dronedelivery, customers can place orders and have eligible orders delivered within as little as 15 minutes, the company 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," said Beth Flippo, chief technology officer, Telegrid. "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."
Drone Express will commence test flights this week near the Kroger Marketplace in Centerville, Ohio. The flights will be managed by licensed Drone Express pilots from an on-site trailer with additional off-site monitoring. 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.
"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," said Ethan Grob, Kroger's director of last mile strategy and product. "We look forward to progressing from test flights to customer deliveries this spring, introducing one more way for our customers to experience Kroger."
"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," said Centerville Mayor Brooks Compton. "Families here have the power to transform grocery delivery around the nation and the globe. We look forward to placing our first order."