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China enlists private courier companies to use drones for military logistics support

China enlists private courier companies to use drones for military logistics support

According
to a report by Xinhua,
People’s Liberation Army of China (PLA) enlisted private courier companies to
help deliver on unmanned emergency missions. The exercise took place earlier in
the provinces of Yunnan and Shaanxi. It was the first time that the Chinese military
used civilian drones for a logistics exercise.

At
the Yunnan drill, as reported by South
China Morning Post
, an SF Express drone was used to deliver urgently needed
spare parts for a damaged radar in a rugged mountainous area. The deployment only
took about an hour, less than half the time it would have taken to use truck
delivery.

At
the Shaanxi drill, the scenario was a medical emergency in which a SF Express
drone was deployed to deliver antivenin to the victim. The mission only took 22
minutes to complete, as compared to the two hours it would have taken by road.

According
to military experts interviewed by South China Morning Post, the expansion of
e-commerce industry in China has made drones cheaper and available for mass production.
As a result, civilian drones became a good source of backup on military
logistics, even though they are often less accurate and have smaller carrying
capacity compared to military drones.

In
October last year, the PLA has signed a deal with SF Express and four other non-military
logistics companies to help modernise the logistics network of the country’s
air force. Such companies include JD Logistics, Deppon Logistics, China Railway
Express, and state courier China Postal Express & Logistics. The co-operation
is to address the manpower shortage in PLA’s logistics network in face of its
growing demands using civilian aviation capabilities.

According
to Reuters,
the agreement would see co-operation between the PLA and SF Express over the
next five years in a series of areas such as goods transportation and warehouse
management to improve the logistics network and aid air force combat. The private
courier company added that it had set up a special division to handle the work.

Such
co-operation is a wider plan of both modernisation of the army and to promote civilian-military
integrations. A recent example is that the PLA and SF Express jointly launched
a new air cargo route to Tibet.  According
to a report by Xinhua last
week, the new route goes from Chengdu, capital of the southwest Sichuan
province, to Lhasa in Tibet. The flight will reserve space for the PLA, providing
it with new means to airlift military cargo in and out of Tibet.

SF Express has been working with the PLA logistics
department since 2016, taking part in pilot work such as the delivery of military
uniforms as well as other drone delivery.

Feature image: Xinhua News Agency

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