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Chinese online retailer JD.com is developing new drones capable of transporting 1 ton of goods or more in a single trip, The Wall Street Journal reports.
JD.com already operates one of the more extensive drone delivery networks in the world, with more than 30 drones delivering packages weighing up to 33 pounds to remote parts of China. The drones have helped drastically lower shipping costs, as its drone shipments cost less than $1 per trip.
The larger drones could potentially transport goods from rural areas bound for cities, such as produce from farms, opening up new types of shipments for JD.com’s drone network. However, the larger drones will also require heavier infrastructure investment — like dedicated landing pads — and more fail-safes including redundant flight systems because of the increased damage they could cause in a crash. JD.com has made significant investments in its logistics operations in rural China, though, and is clearly willing to pay these upfront costs to enable further expansion as it tries to burnish its reputation for speedy delivery in China’s villages.
Among the many ways that drones can transform business operations, few have received as much attention as delivering packages to consumers’ homes. Drones could allow companies to bypass the many challenges involved with the “last mile” of delivery — the last leg of the journey when a package arrives at the customer’s doorstep.
This last mile is the most expensive and inefficient part of parcel delivery, and a wide range of companies are exploring how drones can speed up the last mile and cut costs. E-commerce companies want to cut delivery times and costs to improve their customer satisfaction and…