- Coca-Cola, Walmart and drone-services provider DroneUp partnered on a stunt campaign to deliver packs of its new soda with coffee by air. The beverage maker promoted the launch of Coca-Cola with Coffee by offering drone delivery in the "buzzworthy" community of Coffee County, Georgia, on Jan. 25, per an announcement.
- The drone delivery of Coca-Cola with Coffee and the sugar-free variant was available to select consumers who live in a single-family residence within a one-mile radius of the county's Walmart Supercenter.
- Automated drone delivery has been touted for years but has faced regulatory restrictions from the Federal Aviation Administration. Coca-Cola's launch comes several months after Walmart began testing on-demand drone delivery in Fayetteville, North Carolina, signaling renewed interest in the distribution method that aims to save on delivery costs.
Drones have gained more attention since Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO, announced in 2013 that the e-commerce company had been testing drone delivery of packages.
Meanwhile, a variety of startup companies have been developing the technology while awaiting FAA approval for automated drone flights. The agency this month approved the first commercial use of smart drones without on-site pilots or spotters, opening the door for wider adoption of the technology.
Amid the growth in e-commerce and the push to reduce delivery costs, drones are likely to gain wider adoption than what has been seen in recent stunt campaigns.
Snack brand Kind last summer offered drone delivery as part of a stunt campaign for the launch of its line of frozen bars. The company hosted a contest that let three winners see the plant-based product delivered to their doorstep by trained bird, drone or hot air balloon.
Companies testing commercial drone delivery have often turned to food and other smaller items, as the light weight accommodates the vehicle's relatively small payload.
In 2019, the FAA granted dronemaker Flyrtex an approval to pilot food delivery via drone along a single, fixed-route in North Carolina. A year later, Walmart and Flyrtex partnered on a pilot in the same state, involving delivery of "select grocery and household essential items."
When Rouses Market announced its drone-delivery test last July, the company said it would be safer and more cost-efficient than traditional delivery.
"With [the food] industry, I think we're looking at a need for more efficiency," San Diego's Senior Homeland Security Coordinator Tiffany Vinson told sister publication Smart Cities Dive in 2018. "The more efficiencies we can gain, the better, and the lower the costs that can be passed onto the consumer. For the food delivery, they'll be able to deliver food from further away more quickly."
The next frontier of drone delivery is the use of 5G. UPS is teaming up with Verizon and its drone subsidiary, Skyward, to examine use of the technology. UPS CEO Carol Tomé said in a statement the company needs to be able to manage multiple drones flying at the same time in a secure environment, dispatched from one location, and 5G would enable the carrier to do that at scale.
Emma Cosgrove, Matt Leonard, Krishna Thakker and Chris Teale contributed to this report.