Chinese e-commerce titan Alibaba has begun testing drones in its home country to deliver orders over open water for the first time. The pilot went well but the company has not yet to announce when to make the service available to the public.
Three unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) of Alibaba were tested on October 31, transporting six boxes of passionfruit from Putian City in the province of Fujian to Meizhou Island, which is about 5.5 kilometres away. The delivered fruits had a combined weight of 12 kilograms.
It took nine minutes for the drones to cross from the point of origin to the destination on a strong windy day, drastically cutting down the transportation time by 50 per cent; not to mention the logistics costs that can be saved.
According to state-run Xinhua News Agency, the drones can lug up to seven kilograms per flight. Alibaba, through its delivery arm Cainiao Network and local shopping service Rural Taobao, developed the drones along with a domestic technology firm.
Despite the successful tryout, Alibaba's foray into the flying robot delivery system has yet to officially see the light of day. The company has been looking into these drones as means to deliver high-valued goods like fresh food and medical supplies in the future.
Alibaba is not the first e-commerce to pilot package delivery by UAVs. In 2016, its staunch rival JD.com also tested drones to ship goods. And in June, it finally rolled out flying machines as part of its shopping service in Suqian City in the northern province of Jiangsu and in Xi'an City in the western province of Shaanxi.
Watch the video of Alibaba drones courtesy of Tech in Asia: