The first food deliveries by drone have started in Shanghai’s Jinshan Industrial Park by Alibaba’s food delivery unit Ele.me, the company has reported.
Approval to deliver food by drones on 17 different routes from over 100 local restaurants was received by Ele.me, allowing them to cover an area of 58 square kilometres.
The move marks the first known commercial use of drones in China to deliver food, according to China Daily.
— China Daily (@ChinaDailyUSA) May 29, 2018
Many companies are testing food deliveries, such as Project Wing (an initiative of Google’s parent company, Alphabet) in Australia’s capital city of Canberra. Uber have been talking about burger drone deliveries, and although Domino’s did actually deliver a pizza by drone in 2016, it seems Alibaba’s Ele.me have beat them all to it.
The drones are used for approximately 70% of the total delivery distance, with one employee packing the food at one end of the route, then another employee receiving the food to complete the delivery manually by driving to the final destination.
The Chinese online take-out platform, operated by Shanghai Rajax Information Technology Co., first revealed its plans to use UAVs in the food delivery business last September at the World Unmanned Systems Conference, it was reported by Yicai Global.
At the time, they said their drone had a top speed of 65/kmh, however later reports said that the company’s 3rd generation drone, the E7, had a top speed of 20/kmh.
Although the top payload capacity of the drone is 6kg, the food box in which the food is placed weighs a mere 485 grams. With a 2 litre total capacity, that’s a lot of Chinese takeout.
Ele.me says it is also developing a smart helmet for its delivery staff, which will integrate a windshield display and smart bluetooth headphones, with the intention of improving safety and efficiency.