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China's swamped logistics sector turns to machines for help

Robots and drones are seen as potential relief in 'last mile' of delivery

China's is testing drones in areas including the Jiangsu Province city of Suqian.

SHANGHAI -- China's online shopping surge has compelled some overburdened companies to bring in robots and drones as a possible solution to the challenge of increasingly scarce and expensive delivery personnel.

Nov. 11, the date known popularly as "Singles Day" for its succession of 1s, has been turned into an e-commerce spectacle in China in recent years. Market leader Alibaba Group Holding handled transactions worth 168.2 billion yuan ($25.3 billion) on that day alone this year, which roughly equals top Japanese e-tailer Rakuten's full-year business. But with around 1.5 billion packages to deliver, plus returns and repeated delivery attempts to consider, China's logistics sector could be paralyzed for nearly a month after this year's spree.

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