SF Express Receives Permit for Commercial Drone Deliveries in China
According China's State Post Bureau, a whopping 40 billion packages were shipped around the country last year. This figure equates to 110 million units per day. In 2018, officials expect an increase of 9 billion parcels per year (to 49 billion), as local businesses continue to expand their footprint and services.
In order to support this rapidly proliferating trend, the government may turn to drones. Signs of such developments can be seen in the latest operating permit issued by the East China Regional Administration of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), which was awarded to SF Express.
Drone Permit Details
The issuance of the permit is ground breaking and significant. With the permit, SF Express can offer drone-based delivery services on a commercial level in Jiangxi Province. The company's pilot zone is located in Nankang District at Jiangxi's Ganzhou City.
With approval from the Easter Theater Command, the permit is the first of its kind in the country. To anchor its services in the area, developers will build a three-stage aerial network to support the commercial UAVs.
"Package delivery is key in the world's biggest consumer market, where the rise of e-commerce and mobile payments has shifted shopping for everything from groceries to factory parts online," explained Bloomberg News.
JD.com, a China-based e-commerce brand, has also acquired a national drone operating license. Like SF Express, the company will launch delivery services in rural locations – specifically in Shaanxi Province. According to Richard Liu, CEO of JD.com, the company's drone fleet will be supported by thousands of compact quadcopter airports across the country.
Rural and Commercial Applications
SF Express has been ramping up its drone delivery fleet. Initially, the business started testing drone deliveries in 2013. During the trials, operators were conducting around 500 flight tests on a daily basis. Last year, SF Express participated in a cooperation agreement with local officials from Nankang Distrct, Ganzhou. The company drafted a report to document its first drone delivery, which was used to support its objectives in the agreement.
For its commercial projects, SF Express utilizes heavy-duty quadcopters capable of traveling up to 62.13 miles (100 km), with an effective maximum load of 55.1 pounds (25 kg).
"SF Express will build a drone delivery network, expand delivery services in those remote areas and improve its logistics efficiency," said Tian Min, an executive of SF Express. "The next step would be to expand the operation in the province and also across the whole country."
The company plans to service businesses and residents in far-flung areas. A major roadblock for such individuals and establishments is constant supply of basic goods. For instance, locals living in mountainous regions have a difficult time hauling eggs across rugged, elevated terrain. By comparison, during a drone-delivery trial facilitated by SF Express, which transported a pack of eggs to a remote location, all eggs in the carrier remained intact.
In the future, SF Express intends to roll out an accessible online service platform. Through the website, customers will be able to schedule same day, doorstep deliveries.
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