Meituan (美团, HK: 3690), one of China’s largest on-demand local services providers, announced on February 23 that its application to operate drone delivery in China’s low-altitude urban airspace had been approved by the country’s civil aviation authorities.
The internet giant’s drone affiliate stated that it had secured the proper certificates from China’s Civil Aviation Administration, meaning that from now on its drone fleet is qualified to conduct freight forwarding services in urban areas.
The company said it has taken the initial steps to commercialize its drone technologies.
In the meantime, Meituan also unveiled its dispatch center in charge of managing low-air logistics in Shenzhen.
Meituan told media that its self-developed dispatch system can autonomously coordinate orders within a 600-km radius, as well as dispatch and plan the flights of 7,000 aircraft within 1 square kilometer.
The system is also able to recognize faults within a tenth of a second.
To date, Meituan’s average order fulfillment time via drone delivery is 12 minutes, roughly 150% more efficient than traditional delivery by its riders.
The company said its drones saved close to 30,000 hours of waiting time last year for users over the course of trial operations.
Following the announcement on February 23, Chinese media is abuzz with talk of Meituan, also a food delivery platform, using drones to transport meals, flowers and other perishables.
Chinese internet titans such as JD.com have long trialed delivery using robots and drones over the years, and with Chinese authorities widely tipped to further relax restrictions on low-altitude urban air routes, drone delivery is likely to gain extra momentum.