JD Starts Drone Deliveries in Rural China

The world’s first operational drone delivery program is live in China. While Amazon has promoted its drone delivery plans for years now, it has still not started commercial deliveries. Amazon most likely won’t start drone delivery until 2020 or when the rules and regulations for flying drones are upgraded. In the meantime, the Chinese company, JD.com has spent the last year developing a real drone delivery program that will cover about a hundred villages in rural China.

At the moment, Zhangwei China is receiving a few deliveries every day made through the JD shopping app.  JD’s drones fly without human operators and make deliveries a few days per week.  Operations in China’s urban airspace is proving to be challenging for drones. Even though densely populated areas generate a lot of orders, there is still a lot to learn from a logistics perspective.

About 600 million Chinese citizens live in rural areas and their shopping habits are helping to increase internet sales. In 2017, online sales in these areas grew by 39%, resulting in approximately $183 billion. JD.com understands the benefits of offering fast, reliable delivery to China’s rural communities, which will help it to grab a huge market share.

The company is well on its way to earning back a return on its investment. Drone delivery infrastructure does not come cheap and even though JD.com says that each delivery costs only a fraction of what regular van deliveries will cost, it still has to cover development, maintenance as well as research and development costs. But drone deliveries are almost certainly going to become commonplace throughout the world over the next decade.

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