Meituan, one of China’s largest on-demand local service providers, today unveiled its fourth-generation drone that it will use for unmanned delivery of takeaway food.
The drone, decked out in Meituan’s signature yellow and black colors, has doubled in its expected lifespan.
It can fly in all kinds of weather conditions, such as under moderate rain and at an extreme temperature of -20 to 50 degrees Celsius.
It also braves moderate snowfall and gales on a Beaufort scale of six.
The drone reaches 5 km on a single charge, 35% more than its predecessor. To deliver a better user experience, Meituan’s engineers also adopted a silent triple-rotary-blade design for the drone, which reduces noises by 50%.
According to Mao Yinian, a Meituan executive responsible for the drone business, the drone-powered delivery arm currently only operates 15 routes in cities including Shenzhen and Shanghai.
On April 26 this year, Meituan’s first regular commercial route became operational. Residents can order drone-enabled takeout via Meituan’s app.
The internet giant’s first regular drone route in Shanghai, which is 2.2 km long, starts from Bailian Shopping Center in suburban Jinshan, and ends at the Industry and Commerce Alliance building in the same district.
Three drones with a capacity of 2.3 kg fly this route, with a lift of no more than 120 m and a maximum speed of 20m/s.
They can fly in drizzles and against winds on a Beaufort scale of 5 and less, as well as deliver meals to customers within 15 minutes.
Asked whether drones will replace delivery riders, Mao of Meituan told media that this won’t happen.
“For one thing, the volume of the takeout economy is growing rapidly, along with surging demand,” said he. “For another, drones will only enhance the efficiency of riders.”
Mao added that even with the drone delivery service extended to the whole of Shanghai, it won’t exceed 10% of the total number of orders placed on its platform.
cnrobopedia reported earlier that drone delivery is gaining popularity across China, with some internet titans such as JD.com leading the way to supplement traditional modes of delivery services.