Meituan announces plans for drone logistics network at 2021 WAIC

During this year’s WAIC (World Artificial Intelligence Conference) in Shanghai Meituan has introduced a new self-developed drone model. The Company also announced plans for a drone logistics network pilot program in Shanghai. During the presentation Meituan demonstrated how drones and delivery riders could conceivably work together to deliver orders.

In a partnership with local government, Meituan will explore opportunities for the construction of a demonstration center in Shanghai’s southwestern district of Jinshan. This center will run pilot operations for an urban low-altitude logistics network. It will be the first of its kind to be established in China. The three-pronged network of drones, ground support infrastructure (landing ports, battery changing stations), and cloud-based dispatching systems will aim to achieve 15-minute delivery time for destinations within a three kilometer radius.

“Low-altitude logistics networks in urban areas will present an important growth opportunity for innovation and technology over the coming 10 to 20 years,” said Puzhong Wang, Meituan Senior Vice President and head of the company’s on-demand delivery business. “Our efforts reflect Meituan’s hopes to use inclusive technology and innovation to help people live better.”

“This network would enable us to adapt to different delivery scenarios across residential communities, shopping malls, office buildings, etc.,” said Yinian Mao, head of Meituan’s drone delivery unit. “We envision a collaborative, integrated network where our drones and delivery riders can work seamlessly together to deliver orders.”

Riders would pick up orders from merchants and take them to drone launching pads for last-mile delivery. Drones would then deliver them to special drone drop-off lockers, after which users could scan QR codes to pick up the orders. In June, Meituan also used drones to deliver vital supplies to residents in Shenzhen’s Nanshan district, who were isolated by a COVID-induced quarantine.

As of June 2021, Meituan’s drones have completed over 200,000 flight tests and delivered over 2,500 orders. Meituan has now completed the preliminary development stages for its drones and dispatching systems, with over 90% of its core systems and components developed in house.

We are looking forward to sharing more news about this drone network as soon as we hear more.

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