Chinese retail giant JD.com (Joybuy.com in English) has started a trial of a full drone delivery program. The company is testing package deliveries outside of Beijing and in Jiangsu, Shaanxi, and Sichuan provinces. JD.com launched the program during the country’s “Singles’ Day.” Singles Day – originally “Bachelor’s Day” but now celebrated by both sexes – is a major shopping holiday in China. This year, Asian e-commerce giant Alibaba set its Singles Day record, generating 120.7 billion CNY (17.79 billion USD.)
“There have been thousands of trial flights, with a portion of those delivering packages to customers,” Josh Gartner, spokesperson for JD, told Fortune. “Everything went very smoothly with packages being delivered from four different bases across the country.”
If JD – a publicly traded company – is able to fully deploy the program, they will be the first e-commerce giant to roll out a drone delivery program on a large scale.
JD has received permission from the Chinese government to deploy drone delivery. China’s drone regulations are favorable to the many drone manufacturers in the country, allowing testing of new drone technology and applications in a relatively unregulated environment. JD’s drone delivery program was originally developed to increase the speed (and decrease the cost) of delivery to rural China. The JD drone program does not deliver to individual homes, but from regional delivery centers to so-called “village promoters,” responsible for delivering the packages to the individual consumer. The company has over 300,000 “village promoters” at this time.
JD has a drone fleet of 30, and the capabilities are impressive. The drones can deliver packages from 5 – 15 kg (from about 11 pounds to about 33 pounds) and can travel a distance of up to 50 km, or just over 31 miles.
The US’ first FAA approved commercial drone delivery test was performed by drone startup Flirtey and 7-Eleven this past July in Reno, NV.
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.
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