Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd beat Amazon to the punch this Wednesday, by beginning actual deliveries-by-drone. The three-day, three-city test of the system began in Beijing, with deliveries being made from a single merchant operating through Alibaba's Amazon-like Taobao Marketplace website.
For the study, quadcopters are being used to deliver packets of ginger tea to a maximum of 450 customers from warehouses in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Customers have been invited to volunteer for the experiment, each one of them receiving a single delivery.
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Collaborating with Alibaba is Chinese courier company YTO Express, which filed flight plans with aviation authorities and is otherwise managing logistics. There's no word on whether the aircraft are autonomous, or are being remotely controlled.
According to Taobao, all of the deliveries should take no more than an hour, from the time the customer issues the order until the time they receive their tea. The project is demonstrated in the video below.
DHL Parcel, incidentally, is already in the process of using a drone to deliver pharmaceuticals to the small German island of Juist.