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October 5, 2023

Wing details (and demos) retail integration strategy


If you look back at the series of technology announcements we’ve made over the past couple of years, you may start to notice a common thread that runs through them all: we’ve been optimizing our technology to integrate with some of the most significant retail operations in the world.

Each advancement has improved the system in its own right, but the effect is magnified when you put them all together. Today, I had the opportunity to take a step back and speak about this strategy for the first time publicly at UP.Summit, an annual gathering of aviation technologists held this year in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

The timing and venue couldn’t be more appropriate, as Wing and Walmart are just now ramping up service together from our first Supercenter in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. 

Drone delivery is intended to be complementary to existing last-mile delivery options, not a standalone service. To be successful, our technology must integrate with existing transportation infrastructure, the same way boxes frictionlessly flow from cargo planes, to delivery trucks, to customer doorsteps today. We don’t need to optimize for all deliveries, but the deliveries we do make (e.g., small and urgent items) need to be completed with greater simplicity, efficiency and cost effectiveness than have ever been possible to this point.

In short, seamless integration is the backbone of our scaling strategy. 

So what does that look like? Through pilot programs, industry partnerships and hundreds of thousands of deliveries over the past four years, some of the core ingredients have become clear. 

Real-time Demand Response: Our partners naturally experience peaks and valleys in demand, so we’ve reimagined our system to adapt by sharing resources across an entire region via the Wing Delivery Network.

Aircraft Library: Just like other modes of transportation, delivery drones will not be one-size-fits all. That’s why we’ve taken an approach to aircraft development that we call an Aircraft Library, where our team works on a variety of aircraft configurations using the same core components. The idea is to be ready to adapt the vehicle to meet our partners’ unique needs for things like payload capacity and range.

Workflow Integration: Store employees already have enough on their plate without adding an additional workflow for drone delivery. So we designed the AutoLoader to mimic the curbside pickup process, so drone delivery orders can be fulfilled using the same well established workflows happening at stores today. 

E-commerce Integration: We’ve built a suite of APIs that offers the flexibility our partners need to integrate our service directly into their existing sales channels, so there’s no longer a need for standalone drone delivery apps.

Minimal On-site Infrastructure: On-site real estate is always at a premium, so we’ve shrunk our operational footprint through measures like establishing Remote Operations Centers, or hubs where pilots can oversee operations without needing to be housed at retail locations.

Highly Automated System: Our aircraft charge themselves, perform their own health checks, and adapt to changes in the environment. Our aim is to put drones out in the morning, and then have them perform deliveries all day long without additional human intervention. 

We had the opportunity to show off many of these capabilities at UP.Summit today, where attendees watched drones complete deliveries across multiple AutoLoaders, delivery spots, and simultaneous flights. 

If you didn’t get a chance to check it out there, we hope you’ll be able to experience it out in the real world someday very soon.