Thursday, February 05, 2015
Alibaba Starts Drone Delivery Trails in China
Maybe the optimum size of a printed book in the near future will not be determined by the print economics, but instead will be governed by its weight and dimensions. Delivery of small parcels such as books by drones may be science fiction to many, but it is clearly on the agenda of some today.
Last November, Amazon's Prime Air was seeking UK Drone experts in Cambridge to help them test drones to deliver packages on up to 2.3kg (5lb) in weight to customers within 30 minutes of an order being placed. Prime Air adverts for engineers, software developers and scientists were posted on Amazon's jobs site.
When Prime Air was announced in December 2013, Amazon said it might take five years for the service to actually start and they already have started work in their R&D labs in Seattle. Amazon is not alone in pursuing this technology, with others such as Google, UPS and DHL all trailing services. As one would expect, safety is a major issue and tight restrictions on the use of drones in the US have led Google to carry out its tests in Australia.
Now Alibaba, China's biggest internet retailer has gone one step further and says it has begun actual testing of drone-based deliveries to hundreds of customers. The three day trial will be limited to one-hour flight destinations from its distribution centres in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou and also to orders of a specific type of ginger tea which conforms to helping limit the weight.
Looking out of the window today at the wind, snow and low cloud, we wonder how many Prime Air flight cancellations will not be due to heavy traffic over London, but down to British bad weather.