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China Businesses Transportation Technology

Alibaba Tests Drone Delivery Service In China 66

An anonymous reader writes: Following the lead of online retail giant Amazon, Chinese e-commerce group Alibaba has today tested its first drone delivery service. Asia's largest e-retailer promises to deliver ginger tea within an hour to customers across its flagship consumer-to-consumer marketplace Taobao, which holds an estimated 90 per cent market share in the country. The remote-controlled black and silver drones are helicopter-like in design and carry a white box containing the product. For now the service is limited to a three-day test in three of China's largest mega-cities, Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, and confined to just one tea brand from one merchant. The trial will be applied up to a limit of 450 tea deliveries.
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Alibaba Tests Drone Delivery Service In China

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  • by Akratist ( 1080775 ) on Wednesday February 04, 2015 @10:00AM (#48978945)
    ...but, also kind of cool in so many ways.
    • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Wednesday February 04, 2015 @10:48AM (#48979305)

      Why is using a 5 kg drone more wasteful and inefficient than using a two tonne truck?
      The truck will be more cost effective for routine, non-urgent, bulk deliveries.
      But the drone will be better for urgent deliveries of small items.

    • Most customers for a lcoal business are within a mile or two. Food takeout, cigarettes, pharmacy, sundries are potential deliveries. I expect drone reliability of mid-level models to improve with time.
  • I'm always fascinated by the details which seem somewhat abstract (i.e. 450 in 3 days in 3 cities with 90% market share). Is it numerological or statistical in its significance to the Chinese? Oh, I can make up a million wrong reasons why, but I though maybe someone might know...

  • I wish the United States was as free as China
    • Yummy neurotoxins in their shrimp and fish, melamine in their infant formula, firewalled global internet, and censored bloggers. Before the Pure Food and Drug Act in the US it was common for bakeries to add sawdust to bread, and then there's the great killing fogs of industrial england.

      freedom from regulation isn't freedom in all cases.

  • So I see the copter starting to land infront of the apartment building in the video [] and then it cuts to her drinking the tea. How long does the copter wait before taking off again? Does it or somebody notify her that its waiting outside? How can they be so trusting to land it in that location without visual? Hitting a tree seems inevitable.
    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      About the visual (I did not see the video) FPV (First Person View) flight is pretty common. Buy some goggles, a cheap camera and a transmitter and you are done. Just search for 'fpv quadcopter'

      • I've been using a 5.8Ghz black pearl FPV kit with a DJI phantom and its just not something you could trust 100% in a city. Once you start going low and behind concrete objects (buildings), nevermind a city of them between you and your package destination, you loose signal fast.
    • How long does the copter wait before taking off again?

      It doesn't land. It hovers and drops the package.

      Does it or somebody notify her that its waiting outside?

      The customer will receive a text message with the time and location of the drop, which they must acknowledge before the drone launches.

      How can they be so trusting to land it in that location without visual?

      The drone has cameras. The takeoff and mid-flight can be automated, but the drop will be monitored by a human.

      • It doesn't land. It hovers and drops the package.

        It should drop the package from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

  • ... first. We came up with the idea and our people tried to do it. But yet again... fucking government.

    I'd almost prefer if our government were more corrupt so we could at least bribe them to be less stupid.

    • Eh, they're plenty bribeable. There's probably a lobbyist from UPS sitting in the office of some Congressman, while a lobbyist from Amazon is in another office down the hall, and one from Fedex down the hall from there. It's all about who ponies up the biggest campaign contribution, if something will be done or not.
      • Google has been trying... they went from sending almost nothing to washington to basically sending them all money.

        Regardless, I wasn't talking about congressman. I was talking about lower level bureaucrats. You see it in a lot of countries. You get pulled over for speeding or whatever and you can make it go away by slipping the officer a reasonable bribe. Sometimes all it takes is 10 bucks. Sometimes they want more.

        If the government isn't going to be rational on the subject then they need to be subverted in

        • I wouldn't call your examples cases of overregulation. More a case of the law being behind the technology curve, as it usually is. Not that there is no overregulation, but I don't think your examples qualify. Regarding safety. There is no such thing as absolute safety. The law specifies a number of features a car should have to make it safe. How else would 'they' determine if the car is safe? You'll need some kind of guideline.
          • No, it isn't behind the technology curve. They weren't regulating remote controlled airplanes. I could fly a little remote controlled airplane and do all this stuff and the FAA wouldn't have said anything.

            What is the difference? What they're doing is trying to regulate something that previously no one cared about. And really they have no reason to regulate it beyond what is already on the books.

            Here is what needs to be established:

            1. Stay away from controlled airspace such as airports.
            2. Stay below 500 or s

      • Fuck yeah! Ponies!

  • With that many people in China and relatively inexpensive labour cost, I can almost guarantee that it is far more cheaper and efficient to deliver products using human than the drone.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Intracity deliveries in China usually costs around 8RMB (the exact type of deliveries that the drones are trying to replace in this case), which is around 1.20USD.
      Meanwhile it is estimated that cost of drone deliveries costs around 20~70 cents for a 10km trip [].

      Though it should be noted that the 8RMB includes the margins for the delivery company, while the drone delivery cost doesn't include such margin. Thus, I think it is likely to be economical to deliver with drones even in China.

      • I wonder how this will work in practice. Currently packages either get delivered right to my apartment's door step or dropped off at the guard house, which seemingly every slightly better apartment block in China has. The guards will probably get ticked off if they have to leave their cubicle all the time - most of them seem to just sit in there all day and smoke. And for me as spoiled customer I'd also rather have a dude schlepp everything right to my doorstep on floor 23.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Let me just say that I love Alibaba/Aliexpress. Finally the playing field is leveled and consumers can get products DIRECTLY from the manufacturer without paying a ridiculous markup.

    I can get shirts for $9 that retail in the West for $70. People call them "fakes" but the reality is that THEY ARE MADE IN THE SAME FACTORY that is making the "real" products. They simply run the assembly line after hours.

    I also know people get angry at this, but I don't understand why. YOU the consumer is benefiting from this.

    • by Rei ( 128717 )

      I've often found products there that I've had interest in but have never purchased. Because quite simply, I have no way to know how much I can trust them. How am I supposed to make a judgement call about the legitimacy of a random company in China that I know nothing about?

      • There is a number of intermediaries that try to solve this problem. If you want to buy a product you ask the intermediary to buy it for you. They will judge the seller and buy the product for you if they feel all is in order. When they receive the product they'll unpack it and send you a few pictures. Now you can decide if you want to buy it. If so they mail it to you, if not they will return it to the manufacturer and deal with the refundprocess. Ofcourse you'll have to a pay a small fee for the service b
  • This is awesome! Order some tea and get one (1) FREE DRONE!!!

User hostile.