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Kroger Launches First Autonomous Drone Delivery

A drone carrying a cardboard box hovers near Centerville City Hall. A small crowd of people holding umbrellas watches nearby. It's raining and the sky is gray.
Alejandro Figueroa/WYSO
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The drone flew from Kroger’s Centerville store to City Hall Wednesday.

Kroger launched its first autonomous drone delivery Wednesday. Through cloudy skies and rain, the drone flew from Kroger’s Centerville store to City Hall. Inside the delivered package was a piece of local history, a swatch of cloth from a Wright brothers’ plane flown in 1903, as well as a kitchen staple: two bags of long grain rice.

The Cincinnati-based grocery store is working in partnership with Drone Express, a division of TELEGRID Technologies, Inc., on the pilot program. The program will serve residents who live within a mile of the Centerville location. People will be able to place eligible orders and have them delivered within 15 minutes at no extra cost, according to a press release from Kroger.

A representative of Kroger said the company expects residents will be able to place orders in about a week. Customers will be able to choose from a selection of packages, including a s’mores kit and more practical items like baby aspirin and diapers.

Chief Technology Officer for Drone Express Beth Flippo said she thinks one day drone delivery will be routine.

“Nobody will even think about it. You'll see all the drones just taking off,” Flippo said. “Most likely they'll probably be from the rooftop of these stores eventually, but you'll be able to order everything.”

Drone Express is a logistics company that works with businesses to integrate drone delivery into their supply chains. The company recently acquired a manufacturing facility in Monroe where it has been testing the aircrafts.

Flippo said the company is creating 50-100 new jobs at the manufacturing facility for the Kroger partnership. Workers will be building drones and writing the software for commercial package delivery, she said.

Kroger is launching a second drone delivery pilot program this summer in California.