SHANGHAI (AFP) – Echoing US online retailer Amazon, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba on Wednesday tested a drone delivery service, promising to whisk ginger tea to customers within an hour despite close controls on airspace.
Alibaba’s flagship consumer-to-consumer platform Taobao, estimated to hold more than 90 per cent of the Chinese market, showed off a photo of a black and silver drone with helicopter-like propellers carrying a white box to launch the service.
But the option is confined to just three days and a few areas of three Chinese mega-cities – the capital Beijing, commercial hub Shanghai and Guangzhou in the south – and applies only to one brand of tea from one particular vendor, with a limit of 450 deliveries in total.
“For consumers… such a cool consumption experience will give them more surprises,” Taobao said in a statement on its microblog.
Airspace in China is strictly controlled, with the majority used by the military. The government allows limited use of civil drones for activities ranging from rescue to observation, and operators are required to apply for permission beforehand.