SF Express Group (顺丰集团, 002352.SZ), one of China’s largest logistics firms, announced February 19 that it had launched a new service to use drones for short-haul intercity delivery orders.
The company said via its official WeChat account that it will use drones to transport parcels from provincial capitals to nearby prefectures or counties and even across seas or straits, in a bid to extend the firm’s business to lower-tier markets.
SF Express also added a new flight route from Xuwen, a county governed by Zhanjiang in southern Guangdong Province, to Xiuying District of Haikou, capital city of China’s southernmost tip and tourist haven Hainan Island.
After the test flight, the company’s fleet of drones is ready for their maiden flight, and the new business line will become part of the firm’s normal operations, said the WeChat post.
It added that drones have cut the delivery time by half, to within 12 hours between Xuwen and Xiuying, effectively turning next-day delivery into same-day arrival.
In the post, the logistics titan also indicated that drones have surpassed limitations in time, space and geography, and addressed problems such as uneven distribution of resources and traffic congestion.
In the future, SF Express will add more capacity to the drone-led delivery service and open more routes connecting major cities with their neighboring areas.
“This will spur the economic growth of more regions, optimize the lifestyles of people, and help increase the pace, quality and efficiency of people’s life,” said a company statement.
According to Chinese media reports, SF Express Group recently landed the official permission to build a high-end logistics drone manufacturing base in Ganzhou of Jiangxi Province.
The project, with an initial investment of 3 billion yuan (US$437 million) and due to begin and end within this year, will be undertaken by a company wholly owned by an SF Express subsidiary.
The manufacturing base, once completed, will boast production lines for small- and medium-sized aircraft including octocopter drone and eVTOL, with an expected annual revenue of 5 billion yuan.
SF Express isn’t new to the use of robots or drones to turbocharge its business. In 2021, it used a retrofitted, long-distance freight drone called “Feihong 98” to transport agricultural products over 180 kilometers, representing the firm’s first step toward automating its business partly through drone technology.
Separately, cnrobopedia reported earlier this month that the Shenzhen-based powerhouse also deployed a robotic courier to a mall in eastern Jiangsu Province to assist with last-mile delivery.