China’s biggest internet retailer, Alibaba is using small quadcopter drones to make deliveries to hundreds of customers. It says the trial will last three days and be limited to areas with a one hour flight from its distribution centers in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. The company feels that this new technology has the potential to speed up deliveries.
Alibaba is using its drones to deliver orders for a specific type of ginger tea, helping limit the maximum weight of the packages to 340g. This experiment was being undertaken by Alibaba’s Taobao division-an eBay like marketplace that connects third-party sellers and buyers and would involve 450 shoppers. Alibaba is calling the trial a “one-off campaign,” and the company’s news site Alizila reports; ‘By conducting the trial, Taobao and YTO Express officials aren’t hinting that drone delivery service is ready for commercial drones.’
In the U.S., the FAA has been weighing rules that could restrict Amazon’s plans by requiring unmanned aircraft to fly below 400 feet and remain within sight of the operator, who would need a license to operate the drone. The company has proposed using drones to deliver packages in a radius of up to 10 miles.
It has been established that the drones can be flown autonomously above the tree line, but below that, there are still some concerns. First of all they will need to get around moving obstacles like children and pets. Secondly, getting airspace reserved for drone flights is also an issue. A video has been released by Alibaba indicating that the quadcopter drones fly far beyond the line of sight of their operators and will be traveling over roads, rivers, and buildings before landing in open spaces. The company has not provided technical details about how this will be achieved. Check out the video below for more details: