JD.com, for instance, has already been denied trial drone deliveries anywhere within Beijing’s outermost sixth ring road.
Richard Liu Qiangdong, its founder and chief executive, nevertheless said the company has mainly applied drone deliveries in some of China’s smaller cities and in countryside locations, where its logistics costs expect to be cut by as much as 70 per cent compared with services by car, van or motorbike.
The crux of its future plans will be designing and making drones that can fly further, and are capable of carrying heavier loads.
A JD.com’s drone research and development centre is based in Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi province, where the company will focus on developing “heavy-lift drones”, said Xiao Jun, the firm’s vice-president.
The Xi’an R&D hub expects to have 100 staff by the end of this year, he said, including the current 34 now developing the company’s next generation of delivery methods.
Across Shaanxi, JD.com plans to build a low-altitude drone logistics network, spanning a 300-kilometre radius and including hundreds of routes and drone airbases to handle e-commerce shipments.