Meituan
(Source: Meituan)

On Friday, Chinese food delivery and local services platform Meituan and the Jinshan District Government of Shanghai jointly announced that China’s first urban low-altitude logistics operation demonstration center has officially settled in Shanghai. It is expected that a normalized trial operation shipping route will be opened in the district in the first half of next year. Once complete, Shanghai citizens will be able to experience the convenience brought about by the company’s drone distribution efforts.

According to the introduction, Jinshan District is currently the only special zone for the development of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in Shanghai and the first civil unmanned aviation test area of the Civil Aviation Administration of China. The launch of the demonstration center is a continuation of the cooperation signed between Meituan and Jinshan District in July this year. This cooperation between the two parties will cover the real scenario operation, R&D integration test, business scenario mining and so on, which are urgently needed by the urban low-altitude intelligent distribution. The cooperation will start from the Jinshan Industrial Zone and expand to its core urban area, gradually establishing a low-altitude intelligent logistics network of “3 kilometers in 15 minutes,” based in Shanghai and covering eastern China.

According to public information, Meituan launched exploration of drone distribution scenarios in 2017. Based on the consideration of user demands and characteristics of dense urban areas, an urban low-altitude logistics network conforming to the characteristics of Chinese urban distribution scenarios is built. The network integrates three major components: aircraft, ground receiving device and airline management background system. And it has gradually adapted to the distribution needs of users in various scenarios such as communities, shopping malls and office buildings, allowing drones and riders to develop a collaborative human-machine delivery capability, and truly realize the aim, “everything reaches home.”

According to the introduction of Mao Yinian who is in charge of Meituan’s drone business, after the operation lands in Shanghai, it would firstly run tests in coffee shops, fresh food stores and other fields in which merchants attach great importance to distribution efficiency.

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According to Peninsula Morning Paper, speed is undoubtedly the biggest advantage of drone distribution. After receiving the customer’s order, the app will immediately inform the rider to pick up the goods from the merchant and send them to the departure airport. After packing, the drone will send them to the community distribution station according to the shipping route planned by the system. Consumers can open the grid of the community distribution station to pick up their goods by scanning a QR code. In the future, there will be various methods to help customers pick up packages such as robot pick-up and indoor cargo.

At present, Meituan’s drones have been in trial operation in Shenzhen for nearly one year, providing instant delivery services for many districts in Shenzhen. At the beginning of this year, these drones have completed the first delivery order task for real-life users in Shenzhen. Later, they built an aerial channel for the delivery of supplies to the city’s Nanshan District to fight the pandemic and deliver emergency supplies to residents in the quarantine zone. At present, their delivery capacity has been connected to the Meituan Waimai app, and the delivery service is provided in cooperation with riders. Users can see the delivery route of the drones after placing an order for drone delivery of meals. As of June this year, the company’s drones have completed more than 200,000 test flights, with running time of over 600,000 minutes.

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