Look out Amazon: JD.com Offers $15 mil to Enhance Drone Tech

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china drone
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Amazon is known for its buying power in robotic and drone tech markets. However, a Chinese drone and e-commerce company is making some big waves with their innovative approach.

What is JingDong?

JingDong (Chinese: 商城), also formerly called 360buy, is a Chinese e-commerce company headquartered in Beijing. As one of the online retailers in China, it currently has over 236.5 million active customer accounts.

Like Amazon, JingDong is one of the world’s leading companies in high-tech and AI delivery systems. With the help of advanced drones and robots, it possesses what may be the world’s largest drone delivery system, infrastructure, and capability to date with a network of more than 250 warehouses and 7,000 pickup locations.

How is JD.com changing Chinese drone tech?

JingDong recently offered 100 million yuan ($15 million USD) to the winner of a drone delivery competition, the South China Morning Post reports.

Participants have been asked to find innovative solutions for flying drones further and with heavier loads

JD’s CEO, Richard Liu Qiangdong, has already stated that its current drone tech is capable of reducing delivery costs to “less than $1 per shipment” and delivery times from “hours to 20 minutes,” says Business Insider.

Despite the fact that SCMP reported JingDong was recently “denied permission to conduct trial drone deliveries anywhere within Beijing’s outermost sixth ring road,” JD.com still stands to heavily influence the market.

In response, JingDong’s drone research and development center, based in Xi’an, has shifted its focus primarily to “heavy-lift drones”, said vice-president Xiao Jun.

JingDong is already testing longer, stronger delivery flights in Sichuan province, which will be able to carry as much as a tonne in weight by the end of this year, company officials told SCMP.

What does this mean for the drone market?

“Drone deliveries are reducing costs and improving the efficiency of online shopping service, offering huge potential growth,” said Wan Guangbo, a Chinese market analyst.

“I believe JD will lead the global market in drone delivery service.” -Wan Guangbo

Of course, JingDong is not alone in its drone delivery ambitions, as other global e-commerce giants (see: Amazon, Alibaba, and SF Express) play catch-up and develop their own innovations, it’s likely the less-than 100 person team will be absorbed by a larger business.

However, JD has essentially turned a poor circumstance into a great one. When this story was first released by the South China Post, JD was already guaranteed a phenomenal amount of intellectual property.

Now that JingDong’s focus has shifted to developing “heavy-lift drones”, as vice-president Xiao Jun said, whoever comes out on top will have access to the most cutting edge Chinese drone tech available.

Today, most drones are used by hobbyists. However, heavy-lift drones could serve as a much-needed update to our not-so-modern methods of distribution today (see: shipping containers and the heavy machinery/boats needed to transport them). Do you think heavy lift drones have potential?

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