Logistics firm Cainiao tests drone helicopter for delivery

Cainiao Network, Alibaba’s delivery arm, has completed its first delivery test via drone helicopter in Jingdezhen city in East China’s Jiangxi province, the company said Thursday.

The helicopter, made by BGAC Jiangxi Helicopter Co Ltd, traveled 9.11 kilometers in less than five minutes during the test, carrying a payload of nearly 100 kilograms. Drone helicopters, compared with multi-rotor drones, can carry heavier weight and are powered by gas motors, thus packing more power, according to Xu Damiao, general manager of the helicopter company. The JH-1 model used for the test weighs around 600 kilograms and can travel up to 160 kilometers per hour at heights of up to 3,000 meters for four hours, Xu said.

“In mountainous areas like Jingdezhen, conventional delivery might take two or three days, but by using a drone helicopter to drop the packages at the local pickup point, we can achieve same-day delivery,” said Chen Gong, who works at a local Cainiao Network station.

Cainiao is not the only Chinese logistics company to test the waters with drone delivery. A subsidiary of logistics giant SF Express was issued a license in March for commercial drone operation in designated areas, and major online retailer JD.com has also announced plans to use self-developed delivery drones by 2020.