Imagine our drone delivery future and what do you see soaring through the air? A carton of milk? A six-pack of beer? A 2015 Mitsubishi Mirage? The latter example might be a ridiculous one, but Chinese retailer claims it will soon have the capacity to do just that, today announcing it is building heavy-load drones expected to carry more than a ton.
Aside from certain cars, the drones would be robust enough to cary things like polar bears and saltwater crocodiles (just as two completely irrelevant examples). The aircraft are being developed as part of a drone delivery service spanning a 300 km radius (186 mi) across the Chinese province of Shaanxi, whose government has agreed to host the low-altitude logistics network.
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Hundreds of flight routes are expected to make up the network, with drone air bases stationed throughout to deploy e-commerce shipments and agricultural produce to cities and remote areas -- so banana bushels and TVs are more likely candidates than polar bears and crocs. JD.com, which has more than 200 million customers across China, is setting up a research center and has secured 30 acres of designated airspace to test its drones.
If you think one ton sounds like a ridiculous load of cargo for a drone, then you're kinda right. Last year, a group of students from Norway claimed the Guinness World Record for the heaviest payload lifted by a remote-controlled multicopter, hoisting a hefty 61 kg (134 lb) payload into the air. Norwegian company Griff Aviation has a drone that can reportedly carry up to 225 kg (496 lb), with plans to develop even burlier models that carry 800 kg (1,764 lb) and up. So while audacious, JD.com's claims aren't beyond the realms of possibility.