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Chinese online retailer JD.com launches drone delivery service

by Ken Hyers | Jun 13, 2017

Online retailer JD.com has launched drone delivery services across several cities and villages in China. The service includes several rural villages and has expanded to the cities of Xian, Chengdu and Suiqian. The service marks the first larger-scale commercial drone delivery service in the world. While Amazon in 2013 announced that it intended to launch its own drone delivery service, it still remains in the trial phase. Meanwhile, JD.com, sometimes referred to as the “Amazon of China” is already looking to expand beyond its current drone delivery services.

Currently JD.com is using drones to deliver packages to special central landing pads. From there the packages can be picked up or delivered to their final destination. The service is especially helpful for the rural villages it services, bringing goods from the city to more remote locations.

JD Delivery Drone

JD Drone

JD.com is now looking to develop heavy-lift drones, capable of carrying up to one ton of cargo for long distances. That service will be tested in the northern Chinese province of Shaanxi, and is intended to see drones bring cargo to remote villages and farms. JD.com is leveraging its large logistics network in China, which employs 65,000 workers and thousands of warehouses and delivery stations. 

Strategy Analytics expects drone delivery services to take off and become common in Asia before moving to Western markets like the US and Western Europe. Regulatory barriers and safety concerns make launching these networks in Western countries more difficult, expensive and therefore time consuming. But by the middle of the next decade perhaps, Amazon will bring to Western customers the same kind of drone delivery services that JD.com is beginning to bring to its customers now.

Strategy Analytics forecasts the consumer drone market in the report Drones: Total Global Consumer & Enterprise Drone Shipments by Region: 2015 - 2022.

Clients can access this report and others about new device technology in our Emerging Device Strategies service.

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