China’s Largest Retailer, JD, Using Drones For Delivery and Helping Those Trapped By Floods

In 1947, Chinese philosopher, Lo Chung-Shu responded to a UNESCO survey on the philosophical foundations of human rights with the following statement, “The basic ethical concept of Chinese social political relations is the fulfillment of the duty to one’s neighbour [sic], rather than the claiming of rights.” In today’s society, respecting a duty to support one’s neighbors is a principle that often seems to have been forgotten. However, with the help of a drone, Chaokang Liu of China proved earlier this month that some people still choose to honor their duty to their neighbors.

Chaokang is a drone engineer at China’s largest e-commerce and overall retailer, Like Amazon, JD has quickly grown to become the most reliable online shopping platform in China. Also, like Amazon, JD has spent the last decade researching and developing drones and drone logistics that would allow the technology to be used in last mile delivery options. While Amazon’s Jeff Bezos promised to provide drone delivery of goods in 30 minutes or less to customers, the company has been slow on seeing it come to pass.

In August 2020, Amazon finally announced they would begin drone delivery trials in a small community in the Northwestern United States. This was sometime after several other companies had already begun retailer to customer drone deliveries in the US. Meanwhile, JD had already proven the validity of drone deliveries in 2016 after spending a year developing the program. As a JD media representative said, “Our drone delivery program is the first in the world of its kind. It helps further our vision of giving all consumers access to quality goods, no matter where they are.”

JD has continued to strengthen its drone delivery program over the last few years. “The purpose of the drone program is to make deliveries to more remote areas of China more efficient,” JD’s media representative went on to say. “Currently, it is costly, time consuming, and difficult to reach those areas, where order and population density are low. Right now our drones are in daily operation in some rural areas in Jiangsu province and Shan’xi Province, now we’ve started to use drone delivery in the rural area in Sichuan province.” And then, the global pandemic, COVID-19, struck. Countless businesses around the world had to stop operations to curb the spread of the virus. Because of this, e-commerce platforms grew tremendously, as did the need for drone delivery options. People needed to have access to necessities while maintaining social distancing. Online shopping delivered via drones was the perfect answer, especially for people living in remote areas.

Last month, storms saw rivers throughout China overflowing, causing major floods in parts of central China. The deadly floods have left many stranded and without access to necessities. Feeling the devastation of his fellow Chinese neighbors, Chaokang immediately volunteered when JD asked if any employees were able to help the flood victims. Chaokang packed up a JD logistic truck with food, water, and medications. He also took one of the drones he engineers that can carry a 55lb payload and began the long journey to central China.

After driving for more than 10 hours, Chaokang arrived in Xinxiang where 30 workers had become stranded in a factory from the floods. Then he spent another 3 hours searching for a place safe enough for himself and the drone to be launched for the last mile delivery. By the time Chaokang was ready to launch the drone, it was already dark. Luckily the JD drone can fly at nighttime, and Chaokang was given special emergency clearance. The trapped workers got their packages and Chaokang returned home to be assigned on his next rescue mission. “It’s my duty to rescue more people,” he said, “and I’ll keep going on this journey with my drone.”

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