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While India still mulls over regulations, Ele.me begins food delivery via drones in China


The whole concept which began with some fantastic piece of imagination by e-commerce companies has turned into reality in China. We are talking about the idea of delivering products via drones.

Alibaba’s Ele.me has got a clearance from the government to deliver food via drones at Jinshan Industrial Park in Shanghai.

Ele.me is one of the largest food delivery apps in China which was acquired by Alibaba in March this year. With the acquisition, Alibaba has become the direct competitor of Tencent-backed Meituan-Dianping, another giant in the food delivery segment in China.

The drone delivery initiative by Ele.me isn’t for residential areas, however, the company identified 17 routes, each of with two fixed drop-off points. It means that drivers will have to cover only 15 per cent of the route, drastically reducing the delivery time to 20 minutes. The move will also help the company to lower its operating costs in the process.

Another Chinese retail giant, JD has rolled up its sleeve to launch drone delivery system, which will connect major cities to villages and bring down the logistics cost. The firm is planning to make a drone, which can carry as much as 2000 pounds of weight, parallel to the capacity of a chopper.

At a time when China has already given a go-ahead for commercial use of drones and the US is likely to clear regulations for drone couriers,

India’s drone policy is still caught in regulations. Till last month, India’s aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), was awaiting a response from the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Defence as a set of rules for operating drones had not been yet finalised.

Besides, the policy makers have also trimmed the scope of drones in India in other ways. They have proposed to limit weight restriction of 2 kgs and height restriction of 200 feet for drones used for various applications. The policy proposal is being opposed by drone makers which are seeking to raise the bar on weight to at least 4 kgs and height restriction to at least 400 feet.

Meanwhile, DGCA, Airport Authority of India (AAI) and industry bodies have been meeting frequently to draft guidelines for Digital Sky programme. Two months ago, co-founders of Skylark Drones had reportedly demonstrated that how their drones follow a consistent flight plan and don’t violate security protocols at Mysore Airport.

Such proximity between regulators and solution providers and regular demonstrations seem speeding-up the ongoing effort towards drafting required policies.

The development was first reported by South China Morning Post.

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