- Rouses Market will begin testing a grocery delivery drone program at a store in Mobile, Alabama this fall, the company reported. The grocer has partnered with Deuce Drone, a firm that specializes in building drones for brick-and-mortar retailers, to pilot the program.
Drone grocery deliveries will arrive in 30 minutes or less, according to the grocer's CEO, Donny Rouse, and will be safer and more cost-efficient than traditional delivery.
Deuce Drone is responsible for landing, operating and recharging the drones, which must all meet or exceed local and federal government regulations.
Drones have yet to take off in the grocery industry, but much like autonomous vehicles, they promise to save retailers on last-mile costs associated with delivery.
Receiving approval from the Federal Aviation Administration and other regulatory bodies is an obstacle retailers and drone operators face. But major companies are advancing their pilot programs, driven by the prospect of delivery that's not only less expensive but faster and safer, as well.
In April 2019, Google became the first company to receive FAA approval as a drone operator. Its Wing service, which now has sites in Australia, Virginia and in Helsinki, Finland, found that usage has increased 500% between February and April due to the coronavirus pandemic. Its most delivered items include bread, eggs, milk, toilet paper, coffee, rotisserie chickens and sushi.
Last year, the FAA granted Israeli drone maker Flytrex and North Carolina-based drone services firm Causey Aviation Unmanned approval for a drone-based food delivery pilot. Around the same time, Uber Eats received FAA approval for a trial in San Diego. The company said drones can delivery food in less than half the time it takes a car or cyclist.
Consumers have concerns about drone delivery, including whether frozen and fresh foods will arrive at the right temperature. According to a Phononic survey, 60% of customers said they would use drone delivery to order dry goods, but only 26% said they’d use the service for fresh produce or meat.
Unmanned delivery may be more appealing these days, however, as online grocery adoption soars and customers demand the least amount of human contact possible. Most delivery companies and grocers have added a contactless delivery option to their systems to cater to these shoppers.
Deuce Delivery recognizes this and in the past month has partnered with Buffalo Wild Wings in Alabama in addition to Rouses.
Rouses Market currently offers personal shopping and delivery services through Instacart and Shipt that get customers their order in as quickly as under an hour.