Asian e-commerce giants Rakuten and JD.com are working together to commercialize drone-powered deliveries. The Japan Times reports that the move is in response to increased demand for online shopping.
Rakuten will employ JD.com’s drones and unmanned ground vehicles, according to the outlet. JD.com already makes heavy use of automation in China, where the company is based, and plans to roll out the technology abroad.
Rakuten, which is headquartered in Japan, has made technological innovation a priority, having experimented with autonomous last mile delivery for the past few years.
Japan’s mountainous terrain and remote islands make it an ideal test case, said JD.com Vice President Xiao Jun.
“The unmanned drones and vehicles are just the first step in the Japanese market and we would like to cooperate with other leading Japanese companies in product development and application.”
“The unmanned drones and vehicles are just the first step in the Japanese market and we would like to cooperate with other leading Japanese companies in product development and application,” he said at a news conference in Tokyo.
Rakuten will be using a drone from JD.com that is 160 centimeters wide and 60 cm high, weighs 5 kilograms and can travel up to 16 kilometers. In addition to the drone, Rakuten will also use an unmanned ground vehicle 171 cm in length, 75 cm in width and 160 cm in height, whose speed tops out at 15 kph.
Drone delivery tests will begin in April, according to Rakuten.