TOKYO -- Japanese telecom company NTT Docomo began testing its drone shopping operation in the southwestern city of Fukuoka on Tuesday, a service that would be a boon for seniors living in remote areas.
For the test, the drone crossed open water to Noko Island, taking five minutes to fly 2.5km. The device, which has a maximum speed of 50kph, carried everyday consumables such as detergent and tissues.
The drone can transmit information such as its location, condition, and photos taken in real time via a smartphone attached to the aircraft. The Tokyo-based company will test for connection quality in flight, as well as the service's convenience, until January.
This is the first such shopping service which uses drones connected to a cellular network, according to Docomo. Since the aircraft can now travel longer distances, the service has the potential to expand to other segments such as logistics. It could also help the elderly with shopping, a growing social issue as the population ages.
To fly the drone for such long distances and connect to mobile phone networks, the company gained permission and licenses from the Japanese government.
Docomo has also been testing drones for monitoring growth of crops such as rice, and managing conservation of shoreline forests. It is aiming to develop a new revenue stream as its mainstay mobile phone business slows.