From Amazon.com Inc. to Domino’s Pizza, technology giants and retailers have dreamed of drone deliveries for years. One Chinese e-commerce giant intends to make it a full-fledged reality by 2017.
JD.com Inc. has drawn up plans for drones to ply 100 regular routes by the end of next year. Taking advantage of less-restrictive regulations, it’s spent months testing its drones and from Friday — the same day as China’s annual 24-hour online shopathon — it intends to start operating four routes delivering packages to rural residents on a trial basis.
JD.com competes with Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. in selling everything from smartphones to salami to a rising middle class. But unlike Alibaba, it operates much of the logistics pieces needed to convey its goods, a costly undertaking that’s prompted the company to look for ways to heighten efficiency. Drones could be the solution in hard-to-reach locales, where deliveries can cost up to six times more than a city trip because the denser populations help spread the expense.