Walmart is using drones to deliver COVID-19 tests in parts of the US

Walmart is expanding its drone delivery tests with the announcement of a pilot project involving Quest Diagnostics. The company, which is best known for allowing consumers to order their own blood tests, will work with Walmart to deliver at-home COVID-19 tests to consumers, enabling them to test themselves in the safety of their own homes. The catch? This isn’t a widespread service yet, so you must live in one of two particular parts of the US.

In addition to partnering with Quest Diagnostics for the testing kits, Walmart has also tapped DroneUp to serve as its drone delivery partner. The trio of companies are limiting the scope of the pilot delivery service at this point, according to Walmart, which says that consumers will be able to order the drone-delivered COVID-19 tests if they live in North Las Vegas or Cheektowaga, New York.

Quest Diagnostics offers a COVID-19 swab test that can detect an active infection, as well as an antibody test that can look for signs that someone was infected in the past and potentially is at lower risk of reinfection. For those who live in a state that allows the service to operate, Quest offers an at-home COVID-19 swab test under an FDA EUA, enabling people who think they may be infected to collect the sample at home. The test costs $119 USD and is typically shipped using FedEx.

Under this new pilot drone delivery service, consumers located in the covered regions have the option to instead get the test from a DroneUp delivery drone shipped off from the nearest Walmart store. The obvious benefit here is that the potentially infected person doesn’t have to leave home. There are some conditions customers will need to meet to qualify for one of these drone deliveries, however.

Walmart says the customer must be located within a 1-mile radius of either the Cheektowaga or North Las Vegas Walmart Supercenter stores, and that they must also live in a single-family residence, not an apartment building or other similar structure. This restriction is because the drone will land on the customer’s backyard, driveway, or the front sidewalk, depending on the home’s configuration (whether there are trees blocking the porch, etc).

The upside is that customers who request a drone delivery kit won’t be charged for the testing kit or the delivery under the pilot service. The collection kit is delivered with a shipping label so that it can be mailed back to the company for testing in its labs. Walmart indicates that such deliveries may be available at a wider scale in the future, but no details on such an expansion are provided.

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