Across China: UAVs offer solutions to delivery in remote villages

Source: Xinhua| 2019-01-16 21:00:27|Editor: zh
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CHENGDU, Jan. 16 (Xinhua) -- As China's Spring Festival approaches, Li Changfu, from a mountainous village in the city of Guang'an in southwest China's Sichuan Province, received a new year gift from his grandson. Much to Li's surprise, it was delivered by an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

Though online shopping has become common in China, remote villages face delivery problems. In early January, UAVs were introduced to Guang'an as a possible solution.

Guang'an was the first pilot city to introduce delivery UAVs in China's less-developed southwestern region, thanks to an ambitious campaign led by JD, China's leading e-commerce giant, hoping to push the Guang'an experiment to other areas.

According to the city's delivery volume, three flight routes connect the city's downtown central delivery station with three major suburban transfer stations, said Yan, head of JD's Guang'an project.

Two full-time UAV flight controllers are responsible for the UAV service before a delivery man picks up the parcels at the transfer stations and delivers the packages to customers, Yan said.

"A round trip between the central station to a suburban village usually takes an expressman an hour by tricycle, but it only takes a delivery UAV six minutes to fly across the mountain road," said a flight controller surnamed Xiong.

The UAV's maximum load capacity is 30 kg, available for the delivery of most daily necessities, ranging from fresh food to electronic products and clothes, according to Yan.

Low-altitude flying in China faces strict aerial surveillance, but the commercial use of delivery UAVs have been encouraged in some mountainous and water areas in China's less developed provinces.

China's logistics giant SF Express is the first company approved to run commercial UAVs for delivery.

The company vows to expand its UAV delivery in the country's sparsely populated regions and most third-tier cities and below.

According to JD, more cities and regions in Sichuan Province and Chongqing Municipality will introduce delivery UAVs, with 50 percent of packages to be handled by UAVs in the future.