"It's going to allow us to be innovative in a way that we've never been able to before. This really allows us to be innovative in a cool and localized way," said Co-op Marketing Manager Mo Valko.
The program, slated for a full rollout by Tuesday, May 1, will enable customers who sign up for the program to order deli items via an app from the Co-op's North End location, and have them delivered directly to them by drone. The cost of the program will be determined by the weight of items purchased: $1 for deliveries up to 5 pounds, and $2 for deliveries between 5 and 10 pounds. The first 100 people who sign up will have their first orders delivered free of charge.
Currently the Co-op has a fleet of 50 drones housed in a structure atop the North End location, and for the last few weeks it has conducted test deliveries to staff. Each drone has a carrying capacity of 20 pounds—approximately the weight of two gallons of milk—and a delivery radius of 10 miles. According to Valko, the fleet will be piloted by current members of the Co-op's staff.
Currently there are several third-party food delivery options in the Boise area, including Uber Eats and two services that deliver cookies and milk. Valko said the Co-op has had a partnership with Uber Eats for the last six months.
"We started a partnership with Uber Eats six months ago at our North End store, and it's been really great, but one of the limitations is they only have a five-mile delivery radius, and we've been looking for ways to expand our delivery services," Valko said.
Another impetus for the program was to stay competitive with national chains like Whole Foods, which was purchased by Amazon in mid-2017, and has since begun rolling out its own delivery programs in select cities.
"As technology continues to advance in the grocery industry, we've been looking for ways to keep up with some of the bigger players in the industry," Valko said. "Some of the national chains have more access to money for research and development in technology."
Should Co-op customers take to drone delivery, the future may have more drones in store.
"If this program is successful and once we work out the finer points, we can invest in drones that have a larger carrying capacity and perhaps have a warehouse where we can have grocery delivery in the next couple years," Valko said.
If you have taken any of this report as being fact, you're almost as big a fool as we are. Take a good look at the calendar. Happy April Fool's Day.