JD Envisions its Own Delivery Drone Fleet by 2017
From Amazon to Domino’s Pizza, technology giants and retailers have dreamed of drone deliveries for years, according to Bloomberg. One Chinese e-commerce giant intends to make it a full-fledged reality by 2017. JD.com has drawn up plans for drones to ply 100 regular routes by the end of next year. Taking advantage of less-restrictive regulations, it’s spent months testing its drones and from Friday it intends to start operating four routes delivering packages to rural residents on a trial basis.
JD.com competes with Alibaba in selling everything from smartphones to salami to a rising middle class. But unlike Alibaba, it operates much of the logistics pieces needed to convey its goods, a costly undertaking that’s prompted the company to look for ways to heighten efficiency. Drones could be the solution in hard-to-reach locales, where deliveries can cost up to six times more than a city trip because the denser populations help spread the expense.
“By the end of next year we’ll hopefully have over 100 routes available and in operation,” said JD.com’s chief technology officer, Chen Zhang. “This is something we look at as a long-term project. The benefits are tremendous if we get it into the most expensive areas of China.” When a customer places their order, a package is sent from the warehouse or distribution point to a delivery station. Workers hook up the package to one of five drone types, which zip over to a rural village contractor who then makes the final delivery to the buyer’s doorstep. JD.com has a network of around 300,000 contractors, whom it calls promoters, to cover an estimated 600,000 villages.