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story.lead_photo.caption FILE - This June 25, 2019, file photo shows the entrance to a Walmart in Pittsburgh. - Photo by AP/Gene J. Puskar

NEW YORK — Walmart launched a pilot program Wednesday using drones to deliver groceries and household essentials in a North Carolina city.

The retail giant is using drones from Flytrex in Fayetteville, where it says it hopes to gain insight into customers' and its workers' experience with the technology.

Tom Ward, senior vice president of customer products at Bentonville-based Walmart, acknowledged that it will be a while before drones are widely used for package deliveries.

"That still feels like a bit of science fiction, but we're at a point where we're learning more and more about the technology that is available and how we can use it to make our customers' lives easier," Ward wrote in a corporate blog.

Last week, Amazon won regulatory approval to deliver packages by drone, but the company said it was still testing the self-piloting aircraft and didn't say when they could be used to deliver goods to shoppers on a large scale. Delivery company UPS and a company owned by search giant Google have also won regulatory approval to deliver by drones.

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