JD and Rakuten collaborate on drone-delivery plan

Chinese online retailer JD and Rakuten, the Japanese e-commerce firm, will collaborate on developing unmanned delivery solutions in Japan.

According to a new agreement signed between JD and Rakuten, JD’s drones and autonomous delivery robots will be used in Rakuten’s unmanned delivery services, which the firm launched in 2016. The two companies will collaborate on Rakuten’s lineup of unmanned delivery services to suit a wide range of applications and situations.

Rakuten has already gained experience through providing delivery services and trials in collaboration with corporate partners and local governments. In 2018, its first delivery trial was conducted using a combination of drones and autonomous delivery robots, a step toward solving the last mile challenge for the logistics sector in Japan.

“We are delighted to begin this collaboration with JD, which boasts the most cutting-edge proprietary delivery network in China as well as a track record and knowhow in delivery with drones and UGVs,” said Koji Ando, group managing executive officer of Rakuten. “By using JD’s drones and UGVs with the unmanned delivery solutions created by Rakuten, we hope to accelerate innovation in the Japanese logistics sector and contribute to building a society that can offer greater convenience to all citizens.”

JD began developing its drone program in 2015, and launched the world’s first commercial drone deliveries in 2016 in rural China. It currently operates drones in Jiangsu, Shaanxi and other provinces.

Since then, JD’s drones have logged more than 400,000 minutes of flight time. In January this year, the company announced the success of Indonesia’s first government-approved drone test flight, opening the door for future commercial drone use in Indonesia and Southeast Asia.

On the ground in China, its autonomous delivery robots are being used in urban areas in several cities and are becoming frequent sights on a number of university campuses and in office parks. JD has also launched two smart delivery stations in the cities of Changsha and Hohhot, transforming last-mile logistics and further increasing delivery speed for customers.

“We have been using drones and autonomous delivery robots for real deliveries in China for more than two years,” said Jun Xiao, president of JD-X, JD’s logistics innovation lab. “This is one way we are innovating to make logistics more accessible, reliable and cost-effective.

“In Japan, there are many opportunities for drones to make deliveries in mountainous areas, remote islands and in emergency situations. As we push the bounds of what our autonomous delivery technology can do, and explore its use in a wide range of applications from e-commerce to humanitarian support, we believe it will continue to bring significant benefit to people around the world.”


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