It’s not pie in the sky. Meituan UAS flies drones to deliver for 2 KFC stores in Shenzhen

The drone delivery business has been gaining clout within Meituan's sprawling business empire.

Meituan UAS (美团无人机), the commercial drone arm of food delivery giant Meituan, today announced its tie-up with KFC, marking yet another step of the firm’s journey toward commercializing its technologies.

Following an agreement with KFC, which is the first Western fast food chain to collaborate with Meituan, Meituan UAS will supply its drones to deliver takeaway meals for two KFC stores in downtown Shenzhen, where the startup is headquartered.

The two stores are located near Zhonghang Tianyi, a residential neighborhood and in Poly Culture Square, a shopping mall.

In an official WeChat post, Meituan UAS said users who find themselves in shopping precincts such as HBC Huilong Center, Horoy Tianjun and Shenzhen Talent Park can order on smartphone to have KFC meals delivered to them by drones.

Within “just minutes” of the drones’ takeoff, they will land at the nearest drop-off point — usually a vertiport perched atop a storage bin — with food still warm inside the containers.

According to a report by IT Home, a tech media outlet, Meituan UAS now employs its fourth-generation, hexacopter drone to perform commercial delivery tasks.

This small-sized aircraft has a load capacity of 2.5kg and can deliver to within a 10km radius when fully loaded. Its flies at a top speed of 83kph.

Enlarge the service network

Meituan UAS looks to expand its drone delivery service to universities and residential communities in the future as more outlets and merchants make themselves available to the drone-powered delivery option.

cnrobopedia reported earlier that the firm had begun aerial food delivery to the Shenzhen campus of Tsinghua University in mid-December, launching a bid to enlarge its service network to cover more customers.

The drone delivery business has been gaining clout within Meituan’s sprawling business empire.

Wang Xing, Meituan’s founder, chairman and CEO, demanded in an internal letter seen by Chinese media today that from now on, the head of the drone business will report directly to him, as part of a new organizational overhaul.

Mao Yinian is concurrently the CEO of Meituan UAS and vice president of Meituan, the largest local services provider by market cap.

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Ni Tao

Ni Tao is the founder and editor-in-chief of cnrobopedia. Prior to cnrobopedia, he had a full decade of experience with a major state-run English-language newspaper as a tech reporter and opinion writer. He is also a communications specialist, having provided consultancy services to established firms like Siemens, Philips, ABinBev, Diageo, Trip.com Group (Nasdaq: TCOM, HK: 9961), Jianpu Technology (NYSE: JT) and a handful of domestic startups. A graduate of Fudan University, he writes widely about China's business and tech scenes and other topics for global publications including South China Morning Post, SupChina, The Diplomat, CGTN, Banking Technology, among others, and tries to impart his experience to students at Fudan University Journalism School, where he is a part-time lecturer. When he's not writing about robotics, you can expect him to be on his beloved Yanagisawa saxophones, trying to play some jazz riffs, often in vain and occasionally against the protests of an angry neighbor. Get in touch with him by dropping a line at nitao0927@gmail.com.

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