Chinese Express Firm Tests Drones for Delivery Services

Shanghai-based express company, YTO Express (Logistics) Co, said it is partnering with e-commerce giant Alibaba to launch the first public air delivery campaign in China by introducing drones.

YTO Express has teamed up with Taobao to use drones for quick deliveries
YTO Express has teamed up with Taobao to use drones for quick deliveries

Using five test models, YTO said it will deliver on-line orders from China's largest shopping site Taobao.com to a number of distribution sites in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou from Wednesday to Friday. The packages will be delivered within one hour of Taobao.com receiving online orders, YTO Express stated.

The company has set some conditions for the three-day test. Buyers must be within a certain radius and each drone will only carry products weighing less than 340 grams for every delivery.

Qin Xiaochun, manager of YTO's market planning department, said the company is looking at possibilities for the commercial operation of drone deliveries. "In the future, we will bring in professional researchers of airborne deliveries to help us," Qin said.

In early 2013, Shenzhen-based competitor SF Express, launched an internal drone test programme similar to Amazon's drone home delivery service.

Observers, however, point out that the future of the drone delivery business is unclear in China as safety concerns and regulations on the use of airspace make the operation of drones in the country doubtful.

Nol van Fenema

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