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Walmart seeks to start drone service in Pea Ridge

by NWA Democrat-Gazette | December 31, 2020 at 7:21 a.m.
This undated file photo shows Walmart's sign in front of its Bentonville headquarters.

PEA RIDGE -- Walmart is seeking an auxiliary use permit for a drone delivery and launch hub in the city, according to a letter from Benoit Miquel, new deployments manager of Zipline International Inc.

The property is 240 Slack St.

"Earlier this year, Zipline and Walmart partnered to create a first-in-the nation drone delivery network that will enable Walmart to provide an increasing number of customers with fast, convenient access to health and wellness products," the letter states.

The service is scheduled to launch in 2021. The request is set for Tuesday's Planning Commission meeting.

"After a significant search of Walmart stores across Northwest Arkansas, we would like to first launch this service at the Walmart Neighborhood Market located in Pea Ridge. We at Zipline are thrilled at the opportunity to partner with Walmart and the City of Pea Ridge to bring safe, contactless, on-demand delivery options to local residents," the letter says.

The drones can deliver about four pounds over a 50-mile radius, according to Zipline.

Miquel said in his letter the facility would provide an opportunity to expose local schools and STEM programs to state-of-the-art technology and weekly tours would be allowed.

New Federal Aviation Administration rules will make it easier for Walmart and other retailers to expand their use of drones to deliver goods to customers.

One of the two regulations will allow the unmanned devices to fly over people and at night without a waiver, which will greatly increase opportunities for retail deliveries.

The second rule requires remote identification technology that can broadcast vital data to authorities instead of disseminating it through the internet. This will allow drones to operate in areas without internet access.

The FAA said in a news release Monday it has submitted both rules to the Federal Register, which is expected to publish them in January. They will take effect 60 days after publication.

Serenah McKay contributed to this story.

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