Alibaba Drone Delivery Trial Launched

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Credit: Charles Chan /

US companies have paved the way in the world of drone delivery but they are not the only ones experimenting. Chinese ecommerce platform Alibaba announced a three-day trial drone delivery option in the beginning of February.

The trial involved solely one type of product – a ginger tea having a particular weight.

The delivery was processed through the retailer’s sub-website Taobao. The unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were supposed to deliver the tea package to 450 volunteers and Alibaba customers.

For this specific experimental delivery, the drones were going to serve solely specific areas across China and more specifically, the Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou regions.

The trial’s aim was to deliver the 450 ginger tea boxes within an hour of order completion to the correct addresses around these three big Chinese cities. Logistics were handled by the locally popular and quite respected YTO Express.

The Alibaba experiment is far from the first time that Chinese customers get their orders via drones. The first attempt took place back in 2013 when a parcel delivery company called SF express attempted using the technology but did not get the expected results.

With the trial just past, the Alibaba website, and its newswire subsidiary Alizila, will hold onto the experiment data for a bit longer. After the information has been obtained and analyzed, the appropriate department of the Chinese ecommerce titan will share the results with the wider public. This analysis may take months to complete, however, so we’ll just have to wait.

Alibaba has embraced the technology since UAVs have the potential to speed up the delivery process significantly. Launching full-scale drone delivery in China, however, may prove to be a difficult task. Currently, 80 percent of the airspace is controlled by the country’s military, BBC reported. But Alibaba is focused on expanding its international customer base. This corporate goal may be the driving force towards a delivery revolution that will take drone use to the next level.

Jesse Young