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Meituan starts commercial operation of drone delivery

Writer: Windy Shao  |  Editor: Zhang Chanwen  |  From: Shenzhen Daily  |  Updated: 2023-02-28

Getting a pie from the sky is becoming a reality in the city as online delivery platform Meituan has won approval to start commercial drone delivery operations, Shenzhen Evening News reported.

             A food delivery drone flies over a delivery pick-up station at the Galaxy World in Longgang District. Courtesy of Meituan

At Galaxy World in Longgang District, a reporter from the newspaper witnessed how a meal has been delivered by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) on Thursday. The UAV slowly descended and a door above the Meituan Intelligent Dining Cabinet opened slowly, where the UAV precisely put the meal box inside the cabinet.

“It takes about 15 minutes to place the order and receive the meal. Quite a few people have tried the drone delivery service here,” said a woman who just took her meal box out from the cabinet.

The Meituan UAV team announced Thursday that its urban low-altitude logistics solution had been approved by the Civil Aviation Administration of China on a trial basis, which means that Meituan can start the commercial operation of their drone deliveries.

Meanwhile, Meituan unveiled a system of its urban low-altitude logistics solution: the Meituan UAV Shenzhen Operations Management Center. In the operation center, Meituan’s self-developed system can independently complete the order route scheduling work within a radius of 600 kilometers, the report said. The crew in the center will ensure the system’s normal operation and UAVs, as well as handling emergencies.

During the past year, food and beverage products such as noodles, fruits, coffee and milk tea, as well daily necessities such as diapers and even flowers have been delivered through Meituan’s drone delivery system, the report said.

The company said that as of last year, it had completed over 100,000 drone deliveries, up by more than 400% year on year. Meituan started to explore drone delivery service in 2017 and launched trial operation in early 2021. The service has an average delivery time of 12 minutes, which is more efficient than traditional delivery methods, statistics from the company showed.

The Shenzhen government has been supporting the new technology by writing “low-altitude economy” into the government work report for the first time this year, aiming to build a comprehensive demonstration area for the general aviation industry and a pilot area for civil unmanned aviation, the report said.

There are only a few cities in the world with the advantages of the whole UAV industrial chain, and Shenzhen is taking the lead in China, according to the report.

Up to now, more than 1,300 Shenzhen enterprises have created a UAV industry with the annual output reaching 75 billion yuan (US$10.76 billion) in 2022. In recent years, Shenzhen’s UAVs exported overseas accounted for 80% of the total UAV exports in China.