Over the past few years, drones have been implemented in a variety of industries around the world. From agriculture to police departments, people have found new and innovative ways to use drones to make their jobs easier. And now, the Chinese government has given the first official permit for using drones to make deliveries.
SF Express, China’s biggest logistics firm, announced that after a series of tests last June, the company’s subsidiary, Fengyu Shuntu Technology, will now be using drones to deliver goods to rural and low populated areas throughout China.
According to the company, the aerial delivery system will consist of three stages. First, planes will transport mass amounts of goods throughout the nation. Next, big drones will take the goods and distribute them to local warehouses. And finally, small drones will be used to deliver the goods directly to customers.
While SF Express has been working towards this drone delivery system for years, it’s no surprise it finally happened now that the drone industry is worth $3.3 billion. In 2013, the company started trying out parcel-laden drones in local areas. Another test consisted of delivering emergency supplies by a drone with the ability to carry 1.2 metric tons. And the nation even began utilizing drone technology for environmental inspection.
The new drone delivery permit applies to eastern China airspace. While it’s still unclear which drone types will be used and which cities will have the opportunity to be the first customers, it’s certainly a breakthrough in the drone industry.
Because of China’s regulatory environment, the nation is leading the way with drone delivery. In the U.S., similar systems are just beginning to be tested. But more and more companies are beginning to invest time and money into testing drone delivery options. And seeing as how machinery manufacturing shipments accounted for 7.1% of all manufacturing shipments in 2012, the shipping and delivery market is a huge opportunity for drone technology.
What really sets apart China from the other nations making headway with drone delivery systems is the need for delivery in extremely rural areas. These areas are so rural that traditional delivery methods aren’t always able to make deliveries. Over 80% of the UAV delivery tests done by Fengyu Shuntu Technology have been conducted in these extremely rural areas. While it’s still unsure whether or not this delivery system can be applied to China’s more populated areas, the nation has come up with a logical solution to lack of delivery options for the rural areas. There’s a need for innovation in the delivery industry and drones look like they may be the answer China is looking for.