The Mount Huangshan resort in eastern China recently made headlines by using civilian drones to transport cargo between the peak and foot of the mountain, Chinese media reported.
During a trial run of the drone-powered delivery that began on May 9, a pair of drones have transported a total of some 96 tons of cargo, with a maximum single-day load of more than 1 ton per drone, in the picturesque resort of Anhui Province.
Mount Huangshan is a scenic spot and world heritage site that draws 50 million tourists every year with its craggy terrain, enchanting sunrise and sunset view and peculiar-looking pine trees.
The launch of this drone-led logistics has reportedly significantly relieved the pressure on local operators to transport cargo from and onto the mountaintop.
DJI to the aid
It’s not hard to infer from the news photos that the drone at work is a FlyCart 30 from DJI (大疆创新), the first-ever carrier model developed by the world drone market leader.
FlyCart 30 is able to withstand multiple types of weather and geographical conditions, and has a lift of 6,000 m.
These attributes enable it to be applicable in a variety of environments, regardless of the temperatures and other challenges, DJI said earlier.
So far the drone has been faring well in performing the logistics tasks surrounding Mount Huangshan.
The scenic spot needs to transport a large volume of daily necessities like rice, water, cooking oil, flour and bed linen everyday to hotels nestled on the mountain, while also carrying daily garbage and reusables like dirty sheet to be disposed of at the foot of the mountain.
During the peak tourist season between April and November, the commodities to be transported on an average day — excluding construction materials — could weigh 15 to 20 tons.
Even in the off-season from December to March, up to 10 tons of load need to be transported.
Traditionally, the resort operator used cable cars to carry essentials halfway up to a drop-off location, whereupon human transporters are expected to finish the remaining job by carrying them on their backs to the respective hotels on top of the mountain.
In recent years, Huangshan is wrestling with a dwindling team of human carriers, with increasingly fewer youngsters willing to take on the backbreaking work.
According to media reports, the average age of these carriers is 57 years old, and their numbers have fallen to less then 130 from a peak of 300 to 400, declining by 10% with each passing year.
To bridge the gap between a dwindling labor force and growing volume of goods awaiting transportation, the resort operator tried a myriad of methods to alleviate the problem, such as guided cable cars, to no avail.
The innovative technologies by DJI have presented them with an alternative that proves not just practical, but considerably boosts efficiency as well.
Huangshan now has opened an aerial delivery route about 3.2 km in a straight line, with two DJI FlyCart 30 drones flying uphill and downhill alternately, laden with cargo.
The pair works seven hours and makes 47 round-trip flights a day. Each flight lasts only 17 minutes, a fraction of the lengthy hours it used to take human carriers to complete the same tasks.
Currently, fresh produce like meat, vegetables and rice, bottled water, and garbages and bagged dirt have all come to be transported via two modes of delivery, namely, a cargo box configuration and a winch crane system.
Officials responsible for running the scenic spot said FlyCart 30 has basically met the day-to-day transportation needs of the resort.