Alibaba introduces drone food delivery in Shanghai

China leads the way in drone food delivery, as authorities give the go-ahead to Ele.me for Chinese takeaway.

The go-ahead has been given to food delivery drones in Shanghai, specifically 17 routes in the city’s Jinshan Industrial Park. The food delivery service going forward with the project, Ele.me, is owned by Alibaba.

This route covers a 58 sq km area of the park, allowing deliveries across this region within 20 minutes of orders being placed from any of 100 different restaurants within the industrial park.

Chinese papers and authorities report that the drones will only operate between two fixed locations for each route, meaning there will be some restrictions while an overall expansion of options and rapidity spans to everyone within the industrial park.

Staff are instructed to collect orders and place them in the cargo hold of the drone. The key however is that the drones will not be directly arriving to customers, as they must still be handled by staff. Assigned staff at the receiving end of the drone will be in charge of picking up the meals and completing the journey closer to the address of the customers. Albeit this sounds counterproductive, it will in fact cut out a lot of waiting time for both the staff and the customers.

Ele.me have stated that drones will substantially reduce operating costs, taking into account the amount of time, travel expenses, gasoline and customer service issues that on-road deliveries has caused. The drones are set to be a revolutionary step forward, encouraging other companies to invest in moving away from deliveries on the road to improve their customer satisfaction process and save money.

The firm trialled their first drone deliveries back in September, using the E7 drone model which can carry up to six kilos of food and fly 20km out at 40mph.