JD.com, China's largest retailer, said today it will build a low-altitude drone network capable of carrying goods weighing more than one ton.
The retailer said it has reached an agreement with the provincial government of Shaanxi, located in the northwestern part of China, to construct a network spanning 300 kilometers, for making deliveries to remote areas that would otherwise be difficult to reach via road transport. The drones would also deliver agricultural commodities to urban areas, the company said.
JD.com will establish a research and development campus to design, build, and test the drones, the company said in a statement.
Wang Zhenhui, CEO of JD Logistics, the company's newly formed logistics business group, said the company is the first in the world to test this type of drone delivery. "We envision a network that will be able to efficiently transport goods between cities, and even between provinces, in the future," Zhenhui said.
JD.com, which has 236 million customers, touts itself as having the country's largest e-commerce logistics infrastructure, which it says can provide same-day or next-day deliveries to approximately 600 million people. Its network covers 98 percent of China's population of nearly 1.4 billion
The company began developing its own logistics network a decade ago after determining that China's infrastructure wasn't adequate to support consistent delivery services nationwide, it said.