Meituan UAS (美团无人机), the drone arm of Chinese food delivery giant Meituan (美团, HK:3690), completed its first overseas flight at GITEX GLOBAL 2023 in Dubai.
The tech firm showcased its four-generation UAV technologies and supporting equipment at the largest tech fair in the Middle East from October 16 to 20.
Meituan’s exhibits included the drone proper, a mobile vertipad and a flight path management system.
The highlight came when the company flew its drone on October 16 to deliver takeout food and beverages to visitors who placed orders on the spot — the first such flight conducted by the firm abroad.
The demo flight took place near the entrance to the Hall 25 of Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC), where the GITEX exhibition was held.
Customers lined up to scan and take their orders via the Meituan app, which was made available in English specially for this occasion.
Drone-led delivery now a reality
After receiving an order, the drone laden with finished food and drinks soared to the skies and flew across the exhibition hall to the vertipad.
It then deposited the cargo into a smart locker.
The entire flight lasted three to five minutes, and delivered items included iced drinks, salads and sandwiches.
According to a post on Meituan’s official WeChat account, the takeoff and landing process drew a large crowd of curious onlookers, who expressed admiration at the fact that drone-led delivery has become a reality.
Mao Yinian, general manager of Meituan UAS, said the GITEX fair was held at a densely populated area, which placed an emphasis on the safety of drone-powered delivery.
He said its compliance and operational teams had worked closely with Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, Dubai Municipality and Dubai World Trade Centre.
They ran multiple tests on the drone for several months beforehand at the Sanad Village and the Dubai World Trade Centre, which cleared the way for the technologies to be considered viable at GITEX GLOBAL 2023.
Mao said the team also reconfigured their drone and the built-in WiFi module in view of Dubai’s climate and the expected foot traffic at Dubai World Trade Centre.
Mao also introduced the development and applications of Meituan’s UAVs in a low-altitude scenario, citing Shenzhen, its headquarters, as an example.
Meituan UAS unveiled its fourth-generation drone at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference in July this year, to demonstrate the inroads it has made in urban aerial logistics and application innovations.
The model, a hexcopter with a load capacity of 2.5 kg, can deliver to within a radius of 5 km at a top speed of 83 kph.
It is also capable of operating in moderate rain, snow, gales, dim light and within a temperature range of minus 20 degrees Celsius to plus 50 degrees Celsius.