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First license issued for commercial drone deliveries in China

First license issued for commercial drone deliveries in China

Chinese authorities have granted
the first license for commercial drone or unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)
deliveries in the country.

On March 28, the East China Regional Administration of the
Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC)
granted operating (pilot) license to a subsidiary of China’s leading courier
company, SF Express, in Jiangxi
province. SF express is the second largest courier in China after China Post.

The license allows the Shenzhen-based company to conduct
commercial operation of drone deliveries in approved airspace nationwide. SF
Express will start in a pilot zone in Nankang district of Ganzhou, a city in
Jiangxi province, where it has been testing drone deliveries since June 2017.

Tian Min, head of technology at SF Express, said that the
next step would be to expand the drone delivery operations across the whole
province and ultimately nationwide.

Wang Zhiqing, deputy director of the CAAC, said, “The
issuing of the license means that China has entered a new stage of drone
transportation and it is also an integration of traditional airfreight with
drones.”

Chinese companies ramping up drone delivery
efforts

JD, China’s
second-largest e-commerce player, formally opened a drone delivery station in
Hainan province on 26 March. In February, the CAAC approved JD’s experimental
drone deliveries in a pilot zone in Xi’an, capital of Shaanxi province.

JD launched
a competition offering 100 million Yuan (US$16 million) to find solutions for
conducting widespread drone delivery services across China.

In December 2017, it was reported that JD
is planning to build 185 drone airports in Sichuan province , to develop
logistics services for rural areas. It plans to use drones to deliver
agricultural products from rural areas in Sichuan to cities across the country
within 24 hours, reducing the logistics costs in rural areas by 50 to 70
percent.

A few days ago, Cainiao
Network Technology Co Ltd, the logistics affiliate of Alibaba Group Holding
Ltd, demonstrated
its drone transportation technology, by transporting tea leaves from Shifeng
Mountain, next to Hangzhou’s West Lake, to the tea processing center in less
than two minutes. Previously, it took pickers more than an hour to bring tea
leaves down from hillside tea plantations.

Last year, Alibaba used drones developed by Cainiao to
transport and deliver packages over water for the first time. According to China
Daily
, three drones carrying six boxes of passionfruit with a combined
weight of around 12 kilograms flew from Putian in East China's Fujian province
to nearby Meizhou Island on 31 October.

Globally, Amazon partnered
with the UK Government in 2016 to trial drone deliveries. It has opened Prime
Air
development centers in the United States, the United Kingdom, Austria,
France and Israel and is testing the vehicles in multiple international
locations. In 2017, Amazon filed
a patent for multi-level fulfillment centers that can accommodate the landing
and takeoff of drones in dense urban setting.