Chinese online retailer JD.com plans to develop heavy-duty drones capable of carrying a tonne or more for long-distance deliveries.
It says it will test the drones on a network it is developing in the northern Chinese province of Shaanxi. The drones will carry consumer goods to remote areas and take farm produce to the cities.
JD.com says it made its first deliveries to customers using smaller drones in November. Other e-commerce brands including Amazon.com also are experimenting with drones for delivery.
”We envision a network that will be able to efficiently transport goods between cities, and even between provinces,” says JD’s logistics business group chief executive Wang Zhenhui.
JD.com has a nationwide network of thousands of delivery stations manned by 65,000 employees, with 235 million regular customers.
A one-tonne payload is heavier than what most drones available now can carry, though some can carry hundreds of kilograms.
JD.com says its planned drone delivery network in Shaanxi will cover a 300km radius and include drone bases. Meanwhile, the company will set up an R&D campus with the Xi’an National Civil Aerospace Industrial Base to develop and make drones.