Meituan UAS launches first drone delivery path in Bao’an of downtown Shenzhen

Shenzhen has been at the forefront of the nation in applying drones to reshape sections of its economy. Meituan UAS and SF Express UAS are among the most notable pioneers in commercializing drone technologies.

Meituan UAS (美团无人机), the drone arm of China’s largest on-demand local service provider, announced that its first commercial delivery route in Bao’an district of Shenzhen became operational yesterday.

The new flight path starts at the Haiya Mega Mall and ends at the COFCO WISE R&D Center, an office building owned by Chinese agricultural giant COFCO (中粮集团).

Meituan users can place orders for takeaway food near the COFCO building and choose to have the meals delivered to them by drones.

It takes the drones as little as seven minutes to carry the meals and land at a designated spot — usually on a vertipad atop a streetside booth.

The short delivery time is conducive to preserving the temperature and flavor of food to the largest possible extent, said Meituan in an official WeChat post.

Meituan said its first commercial drone delivery path had served merchants like fast food vendors and coffee joints.

Going forward, it will handle orders for desserts and business meals, to enrich the variety of catering services for local office workers and residents.

Meituan’s new flight path came as the company is actively expanding its drone delivery network, with at least 17 such routes under operation until yesterday, of which six were in Shenzhen, where the firm is headquartered.

cnrobopedia reported earlier that the startup added a sixth flight path for its drone-powered takeout service in late September.

“The collaboration with Meituan UAS this time is a coordinated effort of us two sides to heed the call of the government,” a representative of COFCO WISE R&D Center said on conditions of anonymity.

“While we work together on building a smart industry-city co-development space, we also actively explore new practices in the growth of urban low-altitude economy.”

According to a manager of Meituan UAS, which the firm did not name, the company is committed to constructing an urban low-altitude drone delivery network.

“Hopefully, through continuous R&D efforts, we can cope with the challenges presented by complex delivery scenarios in urban CBD, so as to offer safe and quality drone-powered services to consumers,” the manager added.

The Shenzhen template

Bao’an blueprint in charting a path toward a thriving low-altitude economy recently won praises from the country’s top decision-makers.

Seven ministries and ministry-level state agencies, including the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Technology, issued a circular on November 22.

It urged governments at the provincial and city levels to learn from Shenzhen and promote innovative use cases involving drones.

Shenzhen has been at the forefront of the nation in applying drones to reshape sections of its economy. Meituan UAS and SF Express UAS (顺丰无人机) are among the most notable pioneers in commercializing drone technologies.

The official circular also called for efforts to encourage firms to utilize drones for the transportation of takeout food, biological agents and necessities of life in scenic spots.

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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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