A drone-delivery company eyes Plano as one of the first hubs as it embarks on an expansion across North Texas.
DroneUp, which has backing from Walmart (NYSE: WMT), recently approached Plano city officials about adding a three-story tower to support commercial drone delivery operations, according to city documents. The Virginia-based company announced earlier this year it plans to open a minimum of three hubs in the Dallas area.
“We’re always examining the best opportunities for local citizens to realize the benefits of drone technology and part of this is taking a look at the most logical places where the infrastructure could support it,” DroneUp spokesman Patrick Santucci said. “The Plano, Texas area is an area we are exploring.”
The proposed drone airport would be located near the Walmart Neighborhood Market at Parkwood Square off Custer Road.
As a result of DroneUp’s request, Plano officials are now considering making changes to the city’s zoning ordinance to account for commercial delivery drones. During a briefing earlier this month, members of the Plano Planning and Zoning Commission expressed concerns about noise and flight paths.
“I see this as a perfect example of the camel getting his nose just under the edge of the tent,” Commissioner Arthur Stone said.
The commission did not make any immediate decisions and instead directed staff to gather more information in preparation for drafting an ordinance. The commissioners made it clear they want to maintain control over where drone operations may occur by requiring companies to seek special use permits, rather than allowing drones as an accessory use at existing retail locations.
“We need to retain control of where drones can and cannot go,” Stone said.
David Downs, chairman of the commission, said he wants to design the “best-possible ordinance” so it does not have to modify it a couple of years later and can be used as a model for other municipalities across Texas.
City Planner Glenn Greer told the commission that DroneUp intends to expand across the Metroplex into Richardson, Dallas, Garland, Mesquite and Murphy in addition to Plano.
The Dallas-Fort Worth area has been getting more attention with drone deliveries. Wing – which is part of Google parent Alphabet (Nasdaq: GOOG) has partnered with Walgreens and selected the Dallas area as its first major metro for the service, specifically in Frisco and Little Elm.
Frisco, Little Elm and Granbury have all allowed the use of commercial drone delivery in their communities. Frisco required a site plan review for the temporary operations but has otherwise not established any regulations. Little Elm considers the use as an accessory use to the retail store. Granbury has classified the use as a “kiosk” but has not adopted any use-specific regulations.
Santucci told the Dallas Business Journal that DroneUp has received “great feedback” from local communities where it has opened its first delivery hubs, especially in northwest Arkansas.
“We’re excited to continue on our mission of opening more locations so people can see first-hand the many positives that drone technology can offer,” Santucci said.
Walmart’s said earlier this year it expects its “DroneUp delivery network” to reach 4 million U.S. households by the end of the year in states including Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Utah and Utah, along with Texas.