US company AirMap is helping develop technology to manage a Rakuten drone network in Japan.
Rakuten, Japan’s giant online retail platform, and AirMap hope drones will be allowed to be used at low altitude.
Rakuten set a world record early this year for the longest drone delivery, flying a container of hot soup 12 km to surfers on a beach.
CEO Hiroshi “Mickey” Mikitani expects drones to revolutionise the delivery sector. “The capacity in the skies above us is far greater than in the roads beneath our feet,” he has written in a blog post.
Global rival Amazon is also making a push into drone deliveries.
With more than 14,000 employees and revenue last year of more than ¥781.9 billion (US$6.8 billion), it is pushing to become a tech giant on the scale of Alibaba or Google.
So committed is Mikitani to going global that he made English the official company language in 2010. This helped the company dispense with the honorifics and deference of Japanese, and also made it easier to hire foreigners, reports CNN Tech.
Rakuten takes Japan’s “high-quality, really customer-oriented service mind” and mixes it “with the Silicon Valley, little bit techie, dynamic culture,” says Mikitani.
A household name in Japan, Rakuten spent $900 million to buy messaging app Viber in 2014, and has also invested in startups such as US transportation company Lyft and Pinterest.