China Online Retail Giant Wants to Build a Drone That Can Literally Deliver a Ton of Stuff

May 23, 2017

JD.com, one of the most prominent online retail companies in China, plans to create a drone capable of carrying—literally—a ton for long-distance deliveries.

The retail giant plans to use the technology for food deliveries to and from agricultural centers in remote areas to cities, the company said.

"We envision a network that will be able to efficiently transport goods between cities, and even between provinces, in the future," Wang Zhenhui, chief executive of JD's logistics business group, said in a statement.

The company told Recode the drone capable of carrying one ton will likely not be available for two or three years. The drones wouldn't deliver directly to customers's doorsteps, Recode reported. Multiple packages would be delivered to a local employee, who will deliver them to customers.

The retail giant will work on the technology in Shaanxi, a Chinese province, where it reached an agreement to test low-altitude drones and flight routes. The company will also create a research and development center at the Xi'an National Civil Aerospace Industrial Base in that province to develop, manufacture, and test the drones.

Headquartered in Beijing, JD (jd) has more than 236 million customers and a delivery system with 65,000 employees. The company launched its first drone delivery program in Nov. 2016 for the country's "Singles' Day" shopping festival.

In the United States, e-commerce giant Amazon (amzn) has plans to use drones to deliver packages of up to five pounds to Amazon Prime customers. The company opened testing facilities in the U.K.

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