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NWA EDITORIAL: In just a zip

Walmart tests the future in Pea Ridge February 10, 2021 at 4:00 a.m.

Did you hear the buzz about Pea Ridge?

Or was it something about the buzz over Pea Ridge?

Northwest Arkansas often gets some of the side effects of being home to the headquarters of the world's largest retailer, Walmart. That might be something as curious as spotting the Goodyear Blimp flying overhead or seeing one of the Oscar Mayer Wienermobiles hot-dogging along Interstate 49. It might be standstill traffic at certain hours of the day when the so-called "Wal-Martians" are coming and going from the home office. Or it might be a dazzling holiday program in the skies over Fayetteville using 1,000 drones to create a three-dimensional display of snowmen, reindeer and snowflakes.

You just never know what Walmart is going to come up with next.

Lately, it appears fast home deliveries have been on the minds of the people who run Walmart, which leads us back to Pea Ridge, that town of 6,000 or so folks not far from the Arkansas-Missouri line. For most Arkansans, it's renowned as the site of a National Park Service military park dedicated to education and preservation related to the 1862 Battle of Pea Ridge.

Now, little Pea Ridge is making headlines as the site for a hub where Walmart literally plans to launch a key component of the company's efforts to deliver products quickly after customers order them online.

Last month, the Pea Ridge Planning Commission approved the plan from Walmart and Zipline, a partnering company, to build a 25-foot-high launch pad northwest of its Neighborhood Market on Slack Street.

What will fascinate observers and, Walmart hopes, customers will be the electric-powered drones with 10-foot wingspans zipping along 300 to 400 feet in the air, satisfying product buyers who either procrastinate or realized at the last minute they needed a certain product.

Talk about immediate gratification. Not only does the package arrive by parachute; it might just arrive within an hour of the completed purchase. The drone is reported to have a range of about 50 miles from its Pea Ridge launch pad.

Those impatient to witness the latest technology will have to wait a little while. A project spokesman offered a vague "sometime between now and the close future," dependant on construction and federal approvals.

By then, maybe someone will have figured out proper delivery etiquette: Do you tip a drone?

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