Walmart piloting drone delivery for COVID-19 self-swab kits

A drone mid-flight delivering a package
Walmart is piloting drone delivery to facilitate no-touch COVID-19 testing. (Mopic/Shutterstock)

Walmart is piloting drone delivery of home sample collection kits for COVID-19 in partnership with Quest Diagnostics.

The retail giant has been testing several uses for drone delivery under the pandemic, using them to bring customers grocery items and necessary health and wellness supplies. The testing kit pilot will begin in Las Vegas and Cheektowaga, New York, starting in early October.

Customers eligible for the drone delivery must live in single-family homes within a one-mile radius of Walmart stores in the two pilot regions, Walmart said.

The kits will be delivered in a customer's driveway, front sidewalk or backyard, depending on where there are cars or trees, Walmart said.

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Once the kit is delivered, the patients can perform a nasal swab in their homes and send the sample to Quest Diagnostics using an included prepaid shipping label. The goal, Walmart said, is to create a touch-free experience.

"There’s a lot we can learn from our drone delivery pilots to help determine what roles drones can play in pandemic response, health care delivery and retail," wrote Tom Ward, senior vice president of customer product at Walmart, in a blog post. 

"We hope drone delivery of self-collection kits will shape contactless testing capabilities on a larger scale and continue to bolster the innovative ways Walmart plans to use drone delivery in the future," Ward wrote.

Walmart has invested heavily in a large push into the healthcare space, flexing its muscle and reach as a retailer to disrupt the industry. The centerpiece of that effort is its on-site clinics, which offer a slew of services at a flat fee to customers. 

It expects to have at least 22 clinics open by the end of 2021.