JD.com, a Chinese online retailer, has revealed that it is working on heavy-duty drones that will be useful in making deliveries for loads weighing 1,000 kilos or even more. Initially, the heavy-duty drones will be deployed in the Shaanxi province of China.
The first time the online retailer which is ranked second to Alibaba in China made drone deliveries was in 2016 when the technique was found to be suited to dispatching small packages to customers residing in rural villages that were located in remote areas. Currently, the retailer has a fleet of around 30 drones which are used to deliver shipments to remote areas in provinces such as Guizhou, Jiangsu, Sichuan and Shaanxi where over 230 million people live. The drone delivery service also serves remote areas of Beijing.
Fresh farm produce
Besides making deliveries, the drones would also offer a transport service for farmers who are in the rural areas. This could be in situations where farmers who are located in the areas where JD’s heavy-duty drones reach want to transport their produce to urban markets that are in faraway places. This could include such fresh produce as vegetables and fruit which would likely go bad if transported by road or other means.
Though logistics firms and online retailers are experimenting with drone deliveries, it has mostly been with small packages that are of high value such as medicines or electronics. Amazon, for instance, made the first drone delivery last year in December to a customer residing in rural England. The service is, however, limited to packages that weigh less than five pounds. Earlier last year in September, a drone owned by United Parcel Service delivered an inhaler to a recipient located on an island close to the Boston city of Massachusetts.
Earlier this month, the European aircraft maker Airbus SE disclosed that it would begin offering commercial drones for sale in the United States. This would be for such purposes as inspecting cellphone towers or monitoring crops.
Some of the challenges limiting widespread adoption of drones in the United States include regulatory roadblocks. Consequently proponents of the technology are predicting that there won’t be widespread use of drones in the next three years. Regulatory issues are however not an issue in China which has now emerged as the largest maker of civilian drones in the world. Already commercial drones are in wide use on Chinese farms. Drone makers in China also receive support from local governments.