De­liv­ery drone flies to­ward the fu­ture

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - By SHI XIAOFENG in Hangzhou and SUN XIAOCHEN in Bei­jing Con­tact the writ­ers at sunx­i­aochen@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

A suc­cess­ful pack­age de­liv­ery by drone on Mon­day bodes well for the com­mer­cial use of un­manned air­craft in the lo­gis­tics sec­tor, but more tests are needed, ac­cord­ing to those in­volved with the test.

As a six-pro­pel­ler China Post drone car­ry­ing a pack­age landed smoothly on a playground in Qiguan vil­lage, Anji county, Zhe­jiang prov­ince, to the cheers and ap­plause of a group of res­i­dents that in­cluded lo­cal postal worker Chen Yong. The pack­age was the first to be de­liv­ered by drone in the rugged moun­tain area.

“It came way faster than I ex­pected,” Chen said, af­ter col­lect­ing news­pa­pers and mail de­liv­ered by the drone 10 min­utes af­ter leav­ing the town 10 kilo­me­ters away.

It was the first suc­cess­ful trial by China Post on its pro­posed un­manned air­craft de­liv­ery route, as it faces the chal­lenge of ris­ing de­liv­ery costs in ru­ral ar­eas, where de­mand for faster and safer de­liv­ery has taken off with e-com­merce.

Zhang Lifeng, gen­eral man­ager of China Post’s Anji county branch, said the trial will run for three months as part of a fea­si­bil­ity anal­y­sis for fu­ture long-term oper­a­tions.

“It was con­ducted for test­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of fly­ing de­liv­ery drones on care­fully de­signed fixed routes in this moun­tain­ous re­gion,” he said.

“Still, we need more re­search and ob­ser­va­tion re­gard­ing the drone’s power sup­ply, the sta­bil­ity of the on­line con­trol sys­tem and the op­er­a­tional cost to know whether the tech­nol­ogy is re­li­able and prac­ti­cal,” he said.

The drone, to­gether with a re­mote con­trol sys­tem, which was pro­vided by an un­manned air­craft man­u­fac­turer in Hangzhou, can fly as long as 30 min­utes — a to­tal range of 20 kilo­me­ters — on each bat­tery recharge, ac­cord­ing to the county post of­fice.

“What also caters to ru­ral needs is that the drone will fly on pre-es­tab­lished, fixed routes con­trol oper­a­tions that are not too com­pli­cated,” Zhang said.

Two more trial routes con­nect­ing the town’s post of­fice with two re­mote vil­lages, Dongling and Daxi, will be opened soon, ac­cord­ing to the county govern­ment.

“It will for sure bring more con­ve­nience for lo­cal res­i­dents and pro­mote ef­fi­ciency in lo­gis­ti­cal ser­vices in the long term,” said Xia Liang, chief of Hang­gai town­ship, which gov­erns Qiguan vil­lage.

YU LEBIN / FOR CHINA DAILY

Chen Yong, a postal worker, re­ceives pack­ages de­liv­ered by a drone in Anji county, Zhe­jiang prov­ince, on Mon­day.

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