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Drones send tourists' takeouts to campsite

By HUANG ZHILING and PENG CHAO in Chengdu | China Daily | Updated: 2024-02-21 09:49

Tourists visiting Pengzhou, Sichuan province, were surprised to find a drone delivery service during this year's Spring Festival holiday.

A tourist surnamed Wang, camping in the town of Bailu in Pengzhou, opened an app and ordered some hotpot ingredients. Within approximately 10 minutes, a drone from the nearby town of Tongji delivered the ingredients to her campsite.

The drone delivery service was launched on the first day of the Lunar New Year as a joint project by the Chengdu Civil UAV Experimental Base and Sichuan Songba Logistics Technology.

Zhou Xiaoming, chairman of Sichuan Xiangpeng Intelligent Aviation Technology, operator of the Chengdu UAV base, said the delivery service covers five homestays and campsites in the towns of Tongji, Bailu and Danjingshan in Pengzhou.

"These three towns are popular tourist areas in Pengzhou, but they are located in mountainous areas, and the scenic spots are scattered, making it inconvenient for tourists to buy food and ingredients," he said, adding that drones are an excellent solution.

The service uses six drones, each capable of carrying 5 kilograms and flying up to 10 kilometers, Zhou said.

In addition to hotpot ingredients, consumers can order coffee and snacks online from partnered merchants, he added.

"This business became so popular that it has exceeded our expectations," Zhou said. He and his colleagues had to give up their vacations to complete the 451 orders they received during the eight-day Spring Festival holiday.

Liu Hanlin, a local hotpot restaurateur, said the drone delivery service is quite innovative and has helped expand sales channels. During the holiday, his restaurant sold nearly 100 orders.

"The delivery fee for each order is 20 yuan ($2.80), which is acceptable," he said.

As China gradually opens up its low-altitude airspace for civil use, Zhou said he believes the low-altitude economy will see broader development.

"The successful trial operation during the Spring Festival has given us great confidence. Next, we plan to open more routes to connect more scenic spots," he said.

Zhang Xiannian, deputy director of Pengzhou's investment promotion bureau, said the Chengdu base is one of the 20 State-level civil UAV experimental bases. It hosts 95 UAV companies conducting test flights.

"As a test site integrating mountains, rivers, forests, fields and lakes, the base can meet almost all testing scenarios for UAVs," he said.

Zhang said that Pengzhou aims to establish a sustainable and commercially viable development path for drones, and food delivery in the mountainous and river valley tourism areas is highly likely to be one of the sustainable scenarios.

He said Pengzhou is also exploring using drones for government services, bridging the last kilometer of administrative services in mountainous and hilly areas.

You Pengwei, head of logistics and industry at JLL West China, said he believes drone delivery services will be more widely applied in short-distance delivery scenarios as they significantly improve delivery efficiency, save operational costs and reduce environmental pollution.

"Some e-commerce giants have already implemented drone delivery services for certain users in Europe and America," he said. "Meanwhile, in the domestic market, Alibaba, JD and SF Express are also actively exploring and testing drone delivery services."

Zhang Chunqi contributed to this story.

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