by Michael Willoughby
This fall, Wing, FedEx Express, Walgreens, and local retailer Sugar Magnolia will launch a pilot program to make drone delivery available to residents of Christiansburg in Virginia’s New River Valley.
The trial will demonstrate the benefits of drone delivery by improving access to health care products, creating new avenues of growth for local businesses, and exploring ways to enhance efficiency of last-mile delivery service.
In April, Wing became the first drone operator to be certified as an air carrier by the Federal Aviation Administration, allowing it to deliver commercial goods by drone to recipients that may be miles away. Wing’s pilot program in Virginia will be conducted as part of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program, and will be the most advanced drone delivery trial in the United States to date.
Walgreens and Wing will make over-the-counter medicines and other health and wellness items available for delivery on-demand, through the air, and within minutes of ordering. Walgreens will be the first retail pharmacy to offer drone delivery in the United States. The two companies will use the trial in Southwest Virginia to explore how to improve the accessibility of healthcare.
Eligible FedEx Express customers who live within designated delivery zones in Christiansburg, and who opt in to the Wing delivery service, will be able to receive some packages via delivery drone. Wing has designed a customized box that its delivery drones will use to transport eligible FedEx deliveries directly to the homes of intended recipients.
“With Sugar Magnolia, we’re bringing a New River Valley institution directly to customers’ homes,” said Wing in a press release, “Whether it’s a birthday card someone needs in a pinch, or small gifts or sweet treats for friends or family, Wing delivers within minutes. With Wing, Sugar Magnolia can spread the sweetness to customers even when they aren’t in Blacksburg.”
The New River Valley has already played a part of the history of drone aviation. In 2016, the region was host to what was then the largest drone delivery demonstration in the United States, when Wing and Virginia Tech delivered hundreds of Chipotle orders to Virginia Tech staff and students. Christiansburg was selected as the pilot location in part because of Wing’s ongoing partnership with Virginia Tech’s Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP), located in nearby Blacksburg.
Area residents can sign up for the trial, or learn more about any of the trial services, by visiting wing.com/Virginia.