Categories Retail, Technology

Alibaba’s Ele.Me to deliver food using drones in China

Food delivery drones are ready to take off in China. The largest online food delivery platform Ele.me, backed by e-commerce giant Alibaba (BABA), won the approval of Chinese authorities to deliver food using drones in Shanghai’s industrial zone.

On receiving the new license to use drones to deliver food, the Shanghai-based company appears to lead the race in using drones for delivering food. Ele.me has put behind several competitors that are testing drones for food delivery. The list includes Google’s Project Wing and Uber that is testing drone delivery for UberEats. Though back in 2016, Domino’s (DPZ) delivered a pizza using a drone, Ele.me is clearly the winner in this game.

Early this year, retail giant Alibaba took complete control of the startup Ele.Me in a $9.5 billion deal. This further boosted the company’s efforts to expand in the fast-growing market in China (for food delivery as well as other services). The Alibaba subsidiary is using the latest drone technology to fasten the delivery duration by carrying the food products along the 17 pre-defined routes.

On receiving the new license to use drones to deliver food, the Shanghai-based company appears to lead the race in using drones for delivering food.

Reports, according to the South China Morning Post, claim that Ele.Me is confident of delivering food within just 20 minutes of the order time. By using drones for delivery, Ele.Me looks to trim down its operating cost by a significant amount, though human power is still needed in the task.

Drone Deliveries in the US

Even the US retail giants have entered the race to use drones for delivery. Amazon (AMZN), that is currently testing drones for delivery, had initially submitted a patent in 2016. The patent shows how Amazon’s Prime Air drone will use lights and speakers to communicate with people on the ground. Walmart (WMT) too filed a patent to create a system of drones that they intend to use in shopping assistance. Package delivery company United Parcel Service (UPS) has also tested residential delivery using drones in order to boost its service efficiency in rural areas.

(A look into Amazon Prime Air private trials in England. Video published by Amazon)

Since other countries are way ahead of the US in airborne deliveries, companies working on this technology have received pressure from the White House to make drone deliveries a reality at the earliest.  So we can expect drone deliveries to be a reality sometime soon in the US.

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