JD.com tests drone delivery in rural China

Updated: 2016-01-29 14:32


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BEIJING - Online Chinese retailer JD.com announced Thursday it is conducting trial deliveries using unmanned aerial vehicles, otherwise known as drones, and plans to roll it out for delivery in rural China.

JD.com's CEO Richard Liu Qiangdong said late last year that the company is developing drone delivery to meet the rising retail demand in China's rural areas, where complex terrain and underdeveloped infrastructure have compromised timely human courier delivery.

JD.com said the drone service will not get packages directly to shoppers but will instead help transport bundles of items from its distribution stations to 150,000 representatives mobilized across rural China who will then get them to shoppers.

The distance between distribution stations to rural representatives, usually less than 10 km according to JD, are more fixed for engineers to design drone itineraries and landing points. Representatives will be notified in advance to wait for drones to land with packages.

Both JD.com and its arch rival Alibaba have been working to unleash consumption demand from China's 618 million rural residents, whose income growth has been outpacing their urban peers in recent years despite a slowing economy.