A Japanese company is next month set to launch “Sora Raku,” a delivery service for consumers which utilizes drones.
The company, Rakuten Inc., said a one-month trial period of the service will begin on May 9 at Camel Golf Course in the Chiba Prefecture, where it will be used to deliver up to about 2kg of golf balls, equipment, snacks, beverages and other items to players at various pickup points.
With the service, players use an Android app to place orders, confirm the order quantity, and to receive push notifications when preparations begin for dispatch and when the drone commences its journey.
On the drone operator’s side, once an order has been received, staff waiting at a dedicated depot pack the goods into a delivery box and load it onto the drone. The operator then initiates the delivery process from the control screen on a dedicated tablet, and the drone flies to the pickup point autonomously. After landing, the drone automatically releases the load and returns automatically to the takeoff point.
The trial service will run daily from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and will be suspended during inclement weather. Initially, about 100 items will be offered, with the actual payload weight to be determined by current wind conditions. Players will need to log in using their Rakuten Member IDs, and they can choose to pay by credit card or with Rakuten Super Points.
Rakuten said the drone to be used, the “Tenku,” is equipped with an autopilot system and image recognition technology with “highly stable flight performance, even in strong winds.” In addition to the automatic load-release feature, the drone also employs a design that makes it highly visible on a golf course.
Company officials said they hope to expand the service to other golf courses, “[hoping] to provide a new shopping experience and make drones more widely accepted among customers,” the company wrote in a recent press release.
The company said they are also looking into the utilization of drones for deliveries in sparsely populated areas and mountainous regions, in transporting supplies during disasters, and in its e-commerce businesses.
Here is a promotional video of the service: