SF gets OK to use drones for air deliveries

Published on 07/10 2017  Source: China Daily Africa


Military grants airspace permission allowing parcels to be delivered by air in remote areas

Leading delivery company SF Holding Ltd says it has obtained a landmark license from the military authorities to use drones to deliver commercial packages and is conducting the country's first drone pilot demonstration zone.

The airspace application made by SF and the government of Nankang district in the city of Ganzhou was approved by the Eastern Theater Command, one of the five national military commands.

The flying range covers five counties in Nankang district and Ganzhou in Jiangxi province. The first pilot flight, in the first pilot demonstration zone, was conducted on June 29.

Staff members of JD.com Inc attach a package to a drone in Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi province. Xinhua

SF says it has launched several types of drone for delivery services, with a maximum load capacity of 25 kilograms and flying distance of 100 kilometers.

SF has invested in a smart distribution logistics and a drone delivery system and has taken out 151 patents. It has established a specialized drone R&D and business operations system.

Zhao Xiaomin, a logistics market consultant in Shanghai, says SF will expand its drone delivery services to third-and fourth-tier cities, and some undeveloped and remote regions, to build an air transportation network.

JD.com Inc, China's second-biggest e-commerce player, has been developing drone deliveries to meet rising retail demand in China's rural areas.

Last year, JD successfully used drones to deliver online purchases to rural shoppers in Jiangsu province, kicking off the e-commerce giant's use of unmanned aircraft for last-mile distribution.

In November, it finished its first drone delivery in Xi'an, the capital of Shaanxi province. On June 18 it began using drones to regularly deliver packages in Xi'an. The company says 40 delivery drone routes have been designed to deliver online purchases to shoppers in the area.

The company has also built a drone R&D center in the city - which is focusing on operating medium-sized and large drones with loads of 200 kg to two metric tons - in order to cut storage costs.

JD also says it will build 150 operation sites for a drone delivery in Sichuan. Liu Qiangdong, its CEO, says the operation sites are expected to open in three years and drone deliveries could help reduce freight costs by 70 percent.

JD says it strictly complies with the laws and regulations of the country, and each of the delivery tasks was carried out after obtaining authorization from the air traffic control department, to ensure the safety of each flight.

Pan Xuefei, a senior analyst at market research firm IDC, says the application of drones in delivery services is still at an early stage.

"We still need time before we see large-scale application," Pan says, adding that drones are mainly used to improve delivery efficiency in remote mountainous and sparsely populated areas.