While the U.S. and Europe inch closer to drone delivery, China is racing ahead.  China’s leading e-commerce company, JD, has launched an agressive trial in remote areas of China. reports that New Year’s gifts are being delivered by drone to rural areas ahead of China’s Spring Festival.  “Though online shopping has become common in China, remote villages face delivery problems. In early January, UAVs were introduced to Guang’an as a possible solution,” says Xinhua.

Speaking with DRONELIFE, JD’s media team says that the delivery program is unique.  “We started developing drones in 2015, and started using them for deliveries in 2016,” says JD. “Our drone delivery program is the first in the world of its kind. It helps further our vision of giving all consumers access to quality goods, no matter where they are.”

“The purpose of the drone program is to make deliveries to more remote areas of China more efficient. Currently, it is costly, time consuming and difficult to reach those areas, where order and population density are low.  Right now our drones are in daily operation in some rural areas in Jiangsu province and Shan’xi Province, now we’ve started to use drone delivery in the rural area in Sichuan province.”

An earlier version of this article referenced an article in stating that 50% of deliveries would be made by drone.  More accurately, says JD, 50% of the deliveries to Guang’an – the latest city to be added to the trial – are made by drone.

“Two full-time UAV flight controllers are responsible for the UAV service before a delivery man picks up the parcels at the transfer stations and delivers the packages to customers,” reports Xinhua.

“A round trip between the central station to a suburban village usually takes an expressman an hour by tricycle, but it only takes a delivery UAV six minutes to fly across the mountain road,” said a flight controller surnamed Xiong.

Chinese logistics company SF Express is the first company in China approved to operate commercial drones for delivery.  The drones have a max payload of 30 kg – about 66 pounds – more than enough for delivery of everything from fresh food to clothing and electronics.

While in China as elsewhere low altitude drone flight is regulated, drone delivery solves a critical problem for the country: giving access  to delivery services to areas of the country with less robust road and transportation infrastructure.  China is proving itself a powerhouse of drone manufacture and technology development, with the world’s largest drone manufacturer, DJI located in Shenzhen along with a large network of drone manufacturers of all types.

Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
Email Miriam

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