BEIJING -- Chinese internet conglomerate JD.com has become the first e-commerce company to deliver goods by drone at a time when many cities in the country remain in lockdown due to the spread of coronavirus.
JD.com's first delivery was to a village near Baiyang Lake in Hebei Province in the north of the country on Friday. It has said on its website that it will employ this method of delivery during the coronavirus outbreak which has killed 909 people and infected more than 40,200 in China so far.
The drone carried goods for about two kilometers, over the lake to Liuzhuang village to deliver its package which contained snacks, electronics and daily necessities.
This route was previously plied by boat, but the coronavirus outbreak has disrupted service. The journey by land will require a 100-kilometer detour.
The drone delivery is part of JD.com's plans to ensure timely and safe shipments during a critical time. On Thursday, using self-driving vehicles, the company delivered a batch of goods to a hospital in Wuhan, the quarantined epicenter of the viral outbreak and capital of Hubei Province in central China.
State-owned China Post, JD Logistics (JD.com's logistics arm), Suning Logistics (the logistics arm of retailer Suning), and SF Express are the only four consumer-facing shipping companies operating during the outbreak, which began before the Lunar New Year holiday in January.
JD.com said that it plans to employ drone deliveries in other cities, such as Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia autonomous region, and Jilin, a city in northeast China.
It has developed seven types of delivery drones, which have accumulated more than 6,600 hours of flight time on more than 100 routes since October 2015, according to a fact sheet posted by the company in March 2019.
The company performed government-endorsed drone deliveries in Indonesia in January 2019, aiming to lower delivery costs and to streamline the delivery process in the archipelago.
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