Drones

Alibaba trials drone delivery service in China

Up to 450 customers in three Chinese cities are receiving their tea via quadcopter (Photo: Taobao Marketplace)
Up to 450 customers in three Chinese cities are receiving their tea via quadcopter (Photo: Taobao Marketplace)
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Up to 450 customers in three Chinese cities are receiving their tea via quadcopter (Photo: Taobao Marketplace)
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Up to 450 customers in three Chinese cities are receiving their tea via quadcopter (Photo: Taobao Marketplace)
Customers have been invited to volunteer for the experiment, each one of them receiving a single delivery (Photo: Taobao Marketplace)
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Customers have been invited to volunteer for the experiment, each one of them receiving a single delivery (Photo: Taobao Marketplace)

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.

Customers have been invited to volunteer for the experiment, each one of them receiving a single delivery (Photo: Taobao Marketplace)
Customers have been invited to volunteer for the experiment, each one of them receiving a single delivery (Photo: Taobao Marketplace)

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.

Sources: Taobao Marketplace via The Stack, Bloomberg

3 comments
Robert Fallin
When these things start dropping merchandise on Ali's customers, they will realize drone delivery was not such a great idea.
xyxygood
@Robert Fallin, May i ask, why?
warren52nz
This technology is too useful to not go ahead whatever it takes. Instead of moving tons of metal (trucks) through gridlocked roads to move a few ounces of product, these can fly through empty air corridors at high speed at almost no cost. They'll have to make them as intelligent as birds to prevent accidents but as we say in engineering... "That's a detail"
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