Soon, the central Chinese province will be recognized for a different form of transport.
Chinese e-commerce provider JD.com says it is developing heavy-duty drones capable of delivering payloads weighing one ton or more, which it plans to deploy in Shaanxi.
JD, China's No. 2 e-commerce company after Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., in 2016 started delivering small packages via drone as a way to bring online orders to shoppers in remote rural villages. Its fleet of about 30 drones have already been bringing shipments to customers in the remote areas of Beijing, and in Sichuan, Jiangsu, Shaanxi and Guizhou provinces, which are home to more than 230 million people.
The larger drones would also ferry goods in the other direction. For example, farmers looking to reach far-off urban markets could quickly ship fruit and vegetables that would have expired on a longer journey by truck, said Josh Gartner, a JD spokesman.
E-commerce and logistics companies around the world are experimenting with drone delivery, but most are focused on moving small, high-value packages, such as electronics or medicine. Amazon.com Inc. made its first delivery to a customer in December, in rural England, but is limiting the service to items under five pounds. A United Parcel Service Inc. drone dropped off an inhaler to an island near Boston in September. Earlier in May, Airbus SE said it would start selling commercial drones in the U.S. for purposes such as monitoring crops and inspecting cellphone towers.
Timely, incisive articles delivered directly to your inbox.