October 21, 2019

FedEx launches drone delivery service in Virginia pilot test

FedEx launches drone delivery service in Virginia pilot test

Service with Wing Aviation intended to serve "exceptional" needs like urgent same-day deliveries, customers in rural areas.

By Ben Ames

FedEx Express says it has launched the nation's first scheduled, commercial residential drone delivery service, completing a scheduled e-commerce delivery on Friday to a home in Christiansburg, Virginia.

FedEx Express, the air and international division of FedEx Corp., says the service is not intended for everyday packages, but rather to enhance its last-mile service for urgent same-day deliveries, customers in rural or semi-rural areas, and other "exceptional delivery needs."

The delivery was conducted by Wing Aviation, a Palo, Alto, California-based on-demand drone delivery service, in conjunction with FedEx, Virginia Tech University, and retailers Walgreens and a Virginia retailer called Sugar Magnolia. The partners collaborated through the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)'s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program (IPP).

The Transportation Department has selected 10 state, local, and tribal governments as participants in the IPP, which is administered by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) with the goal of addressing challenges to integrating drones into the national airspace and reducing risks to public safety and security, the DOT says.

Under the terms of the Virginia trial, consumers can order items using the Wing app to access Walgreens or Sugar Magnolia, or they can opt in to receive scheduled FedEx deliveries by drone, according to a blog post by Wing. The last mile of the delivery, normally done by truck, is then performed by the Wing drone—upon arrival, the lightweight aircraft gently lowers its package to a small, designated location in the yard or driveway, before returning to Wing's "Nest" in North Christiansburg, the company said.

According to Wing's blog post, the first two deliveries were made by a retired engineer who ordered a box of chocolates as a birthday gift for his wife, followed by another couple who ordered a cough and cold pack from Walgreens—containing tissues and bottled water, Tylenol, Halls cough drops, and Emergen-C powdered drink mix.

For the duration of the trial, Wing drones will transport select FedEx packages to qualifying homes in Christiansburg, demonstrating the benefits of drone delivery for last-mile delivery service, the company said.

"Innovation has been part of the FedEx DNA since day one, and we are always looking for new and better ways to deliver the world to our customers' doorsteps," Don Colleran, president & CEO of FedEx Express, said in a release. "For our customers in Christiansburg, this collaboration will test the latest innovation in the last mile of a residential package delivery. We hope that this latest addition to our delivery options will enhance the last mile service for urgent same-day deliveries, customers in rural or semi-rural areas, and other exceptional delivery needs."

About the Author

Ben Ames
Senior Editor
Ben Ames has spent 20 years as a journalist since starting out as a daily newspaper reporter in Pennsylvania in 1995. From 1999 forward, he has focused on business and technology reporting for a number of trade journals, beginning when he joined Design News and Modern Materials Handling magazines. Ames is author of the trail guide "Hiking Massachusetts" and is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism.

More articles by Ben Ames

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